Food minister Jim Paice has called on food businesses to voluntarily do more to improve country-of-origin labelling.

While on a recent visit to Melton Mowbray, home of the Melton Mowbray Pork Pie, Paice said he wanted to see improved country-of-origin labelling, particularly in products where confusion can most easily occur, such as meat and dairy.

“Some good work is already happening – for example the voluntary agreement agreed recently by the pig meat industry. Individual products, such as Sainsbury’s Steak and Cornish Ale Pasty and Asda Chicken Puff Pastry Pie, have also been singled out as products which show clearly that the meat is British, and the product is made in Britain,” said Paice.

In response to the announcement by the food minister, Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith said it was delighted to see the government putting pressure on food manufacturers and retailers now, rather than waiting for a decision from the EU.

“Ultimately, we want it to be mandatory for food companies to provide clear information about the origin of key ingredients, so that wherever consumers are shopping, they can see where their food comes from,” added Vicary-Smith.

Paice said it was a priority for the government to ensure that food labelling was as clear as it could be. “I’m therefore calling on the industry to work with us to ensure that people can be confident about the origin of the products they buy.”

The EU is currently considering new rules on country-of-origin labelling and, while Defra said it would prefer industry to respond voluntarily to consumer demands for improved labelling, it said it would also be pressing for the option of compulsion to be kept open.

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