Horsegate is back on the agenda, with the complexity and slow pace of the investigations into the scandal being criticised by MPs.
For those working in retail, it’s no secret that the horsemeat scandal boiled down to a supply chain issue. But among the press and public, there continues to be a misconception that, somewhere along the line, the fault lies with misleading labelling. Retailers and manufacturers need to take steps to change that thinking in the interests of rebuilding consumer trust. The new Food Information Regulations (FIR) from Europe, due to be enforced at the end of the year, now present manufacturers, labellers and retailers with a good opportunity to address these trust issues.
The new FIR will affect every product and aims to increase clarity in labelling and make health information easier to understand. The regulations have also been amended to take into account the increasingly complex relationship between manufacturers, producers and distributors.
Label content and presentation will need to be both clear and prominent. Legal information will have a higher priority than other elements of labelling and most crucially (in light of recent trust issues) will demand a clear definition of who is responsible for the food information. If your organisation is named and addressed on the packaging, it’s going to be your responsibility to ensure what’s on the label is exactly what’s in the pack.
This means retailers and manufacturers will need to build a different relationship with the supply chain. Contents and nutritional information will become a liability issue, so the relationship will move much further up the chain, with a higher level of scrutiny inherent in this. Retailers will need to talk to suppliers throughout the process and negotiate a new relationship.
It’s now up to retailers and brand owners to get behind the new regulations. The launch of the new regime is a chance to convince consumers that the horsemeat scandal was an aberration and that the labels they see on packs really represents what is in pack - by law.
Phil Dalton is head of regulatory at Legal Impackt