With the EU's Food Information Regulation due to come into force on 13 December 2014, a number of important changes will be brought about for the origin labelling of meat. In addition to these new laws, food business operators will need to be conscious of forthcoming implementing rules and possible future proposals which may affect meat labelling.
ORIGIN LABELLING OF UNPROCESSED MEAT
The new EU Food Information Regulation (EU Regulation 1169/2011) ('FIR'), which is due to come into force on 13 December 2014, will extend mandatory origin labelling to unprocessed prepacked pig, sheep and poultry meat. Mandatory country of origin labelling for beef has been a requirement of EU law since the time of the BSE crisis. The FIR also requires that the Commission examine more extensive forms of origin labelling for processed meat, in particular for meat ingredients.
The Commission has yet to introduce detailed implementing rules for the application and scope of origin labelling for unprocessed prepacked pig, sheep and poultry meat. These implementing rules will establish requirements in terms of the information needed regarding the place of an animal's birth, rearing and slaughter. The FIR had required that these implementing rules be published by 13 December 2013, however these rules have not yet been issued and a Commission report on the matter is due to be published during 2014.
ORIGIN LABELLING OF MEAT INGREDIENTS
Under the FIR, the indication of the origin of meat ingredients contained in prepacked composite products will not be mandatory. The one major exception to this is where a prepacked processed food, which voluntarily indicates a country of origin or place of provenance, contains meat as a 'primary ingredient' which itself comes from a different country of origin or place of provenance. In this case, the country of origin or place of provenance for the processed food and the primary meat ingredient must both be indicated. 'Primary ingredient' is defined by the FIR as an ingredient or ingredients of a food that represent more than 50% of that food or which are usually associated with the name of the food by the consumer and for which in most cases a quantitative indication is required.
In December 2013 the Commission produced a report which examines 3 scenarios for the extension of mandatory origin labelling to meat ingredients in prepacked foods. Scenario 1 envisaged maintaining the status quo of voluntary labelling of...