Foodservice sector urged to provide country of origin info

Foodservice sector urged to provide country of origin info

Food and Farming Minister Jim Paice has urged restaurants, pubs and caterers to tell diners which countries their food is from.

While some food products bought in store are beginning to offer this information, many caterers have not yet taken on the challenge.

The appeal from Paice comes 18 months after the food industry introduced voluntary country of origin labelling standards but there has been little action from caterers and no overall improvement on foods in shops, with some manufacturers actually providing less information.

He is calling together businesses across the food industry to tackle the issue so that consumers can make informed choices on production methods, environment and quality. Paice says he will be writing to the British Hospitality Association asking it to advise its members to provide information on the origin of the main ingredients in meals. He said: “More than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, so it’s disappointing to see little improvement in the number of food products showing this information.

“Origin labelling helps people make informed choices and gives assurances on quality, production methods, and environmental impact. Whether it’s on a label, menu, or given verbally, I want to see all of industry making every effort to provide this information that the consumer has made it clear they want.”

In 2011 Defra analysed labels on more than 500 meat and dairy products bought from the major retailers and a number of independent shops. The 2012 survey shows that the number of products labelled with country of origin went down on meat products like bacon, ham, sausages and burgers, from 73% to 72% but went up on meat products like pies and ready meals, from 73% to 77%.

Other research, published by the Food Standards Agency, shows that growing numbers of people want country of origin labelling.

Defra will be inviting food businesses to tackle the issue together in a workshop in the autumn. It will also be researching the main barriers preventing caterers from using this sort of labelling.

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