A cross-supply chain initiative by UK retailers, food manufacturers, processors and foodservice operators has created a new set of principles on country-of-origin labelling to make it easier for consumers to tell where meat and dairy products come from.

The new voluntary code, facilitated by Defra, requires all fresh and lightly processed meats, such as bacon and sausages, to be labelled according to the country the animal was born and reared in. For dairy, milk and cream will be labelled according to the country the milk comes from, but butter and cheese can be labelled either according to milk origin or place of manufacture.

An earlier Defra draft did not offer a choice of labelling principle for cheese and butter but required that they, too, were labelled according to the origin of the milk a stance opposed by Dairy UK and many cheese producers.

Dairy UK, which had lobbied hard for mandatory action, said it would continue to do so at EU level, where labelling requirements are also being scrutinised at the moment, but said the new code was "an important step forward".