'Stop misleading shoppers' - MP

PUBLISHED: 07:58 20 March 2009 | UPDATED: 10:58 12 July 2010

National supermarkets and producers were urged to stop 'misleading' shoppers after a Norfolk MP reissued calls for a long-awaited change to food labelling laws.

National supermarkets and producers were urged to stop “misleading” shoppers after a Norfolk MP reissued calls for a long-awaited change to food labelling laws.

Farmers, consumers, and local retailers pledged their support to a campaign to put an end to years of dishonest and confusing branding on supposed British meat products.

South Norfolk MP Richard Bacon called on the government to make it compulsory for country of origin labels to be placed on all meat foodstuffs after it emerged that the major supermarkets were still routinely deceiving shoppers over where their food was coming from.

The Conservative MP introduced a ten minute rule bill in the Commons in a bid to amend 13-year-old food labelling regulations and to force retailers to be honest with their customers.

Mr Bacon said there was cross party support and growing demand from shoppers, farmers, TV chefs, and the animal welfare community for the public to be provided with clearer and more accurate information on meat products.

The Norfolk MP, who has been seeking to amend food labelling regulations since 2004, said that retailers were still using “inadequate” and “deceptive” techniques.

“We have been waiting for years for a workable voluntary scheme for country of origin food labelling. The time has come to accept that honest food labelling requires the force of law. That is what consumers have the right to expect.”

“Some people say that legislation on country of origin would amount to a restriction on free trade. It is very hard to see how providing consumers with clear and unambiguous information about where their food comes from could possibly be construed as protectionist,” he said.

Mr Bacon said there were many examples of imported meat from European and non-EU countries being branded with Union Jack flags and being sold as UK products.

Current food labelling regulations, which have been in place since 1996, state that food should be labelled with the place of origin and provenance, but have allowed retailers to import foreign meat and sell it as British because it has been packaged in this country.

A spokesman for the British Retail Consortium said: “Retailers make every effort to make country of origin labelling as clear as possible. Supermarkets are huge supporters of British agriculture, so food grown and raised in the UK is readily available to anyone who wishes to buy it. Country of origin isn't crucial for most customers.”

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