Honest Food

If you bought a chicken supper from Tesco which said that it was produced in the UK, where would you assume the meat came from?

Most people, according to an opinion poll last week, think this means that the chicken comes from Britain.  Actually, Tesco have admitted that it comes from Thailand.

Meat can be imported from another country, but if it's processed here it can be called British.  What's more, there's no requirement on the retailer to say where it actually originated.

I think this is dishonest.  People have a right to know where their food comes from.  British farmers have higher welfare standards than many foreign producers.  How can we support them if we don't know where food really comes from?

I'm not a protectionist - I believe in free markets and free trade.  Our own farmers have important export markets.  But real choice requires real information.

So at the National Farmers' Union Conference on Monday, I launched a campaign calling for compulsory ‘country of origin' labelling for meat products.

It's called ‘Honest Food' and it's supported by celebrity chefs such as Clarissa Dickson Wright and Hugh Fearnley-Whittingstall, as well as the NFU and animal welfare groups like the RSPCA.

You can find out more about the campaign at http://www.honestfoodcampaign.com/.

I'm convinced that honest labelling would help our local producers.  The more conscious people are of where food comes from and how much better our animal welfare standards are, the more I think they'll buy British.

Last year, I visited the fantastic local produce store ‘Crumbs of Sussex' near Washington. 

Crumbs has a colour-coded labelling system which indicates whether food has been produced in the UK or transported from overseas.  The labels also display the ‘food miles' associated with each product.

So people have an informed choice, and they can support local producers, too.  It's quite simple.  Food labelled ‘British' should be born and bred in Britain.

Michelle Taylor