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The European Commission is expected to abandon controversial plans to introduce mandatory country of origin labelling for meat in processed foods.

The EC this week declined to either confirm or deny it was moving away from the proposals, saying only it would publish a further report on the issue later this month.

But industry sources told The Grocer the EC had told a ‘civil dialogue group’ last week it would not push forward with legislation on mandatory labelling for meat as an ingredient.

Enhanced labelling requirements for processed meat soared to the top of the political agenda in the wake of the horsemeat scandal in early 2013. In December 2013, the EC published a report on the issue, concluding further discussions over the advantages and disadvantages of legislation were needed with the European Parliament and Council.

Since then there have been no formal moves by the EC or Council to include the issue on agendas, although the European Parliament backed a motion in favour of legislation ­earlier this year.

British meat processors have argued against mandatory labelling requirements, claiming they would be costly and difficult to implement.

However, those in favour believe more stringent labelling for meat in processed products would help protect consumers against food fraud and rebuild confidence in processed meats.

Defra would not comment on whether it believed the EC was likely to move away from mandatory action, but a spokesman said the UK was “pushing for food manufacturers to give as much information on the origin of meat ingredients in their products, provided it does not mislead consumers or put a disproportionate burden on food businesses.”