Nick Herbert launches 'Honest Food' campaign

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert will today step up his call for clearer food labelling with the launch of a new campaign and poll.

Under current rules, meat imported from abroad and processed here - such as bacon, sausages and pies - can be labelled British.  The Honest Food campaign is demanding compulsory ‘country of origin' labelling so that meat products that are labelled British can only come from animals born and bred in Britain.

The call for country of origin labelling is being endorsed by farming and animal welfare organisations including the NFU and RSPCA, and the Honest Food campaign is endorsed by food celebrities including Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and Clarissa Dickson Wright.  It has been launched with a website and promotional video, and aims to:

  • Empower consumers to make informed choices about the food they buy;
  • End misleading packaging of non-British meat or meat products being labelled as British;
  • Support British producers by allowing consumers to identify genuine British meat;
  • Promote superior British produce by highlighting the advantages of British produce - especially the superior welfare standards of UK food, and
  • Bring honesty and integrity to meat sales to restore trust and confidence in British food and labelling in general.

A new poll commissioned by the Conservatives shows strong public support for clearer country of origin food labelling.  The ICM survey found that 51 per cent believe food labelled as British indicates the meat is from an animal born and bred in Britain, when in fact this is frequently not the case.  A huge majority (89 per cent) support a "born and bred" qualification for British labelling.

Speaking at the NFU annual conference in Birmingham today, Mr Herbert, the new Shadow Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Secretary, will say that the Conservatives will be introducing a Parliamentary Bill requiring meat and meat products labelled as British or carrying the Union flag to be born and bred in Britain.

"A voluntary agreement between major food retailers is inadequate and a compulsory labelling scheme is now essential.  This is why we are introducing a Parliamentary Bill requiring meat and meat products labelled as British or carrying the Union flag to be born and bred in Britain.

"For a decade Defra has promised to ‘clamp down' on misleading information and leading supermarkets gave a commitment in a voluntary code that they would not sell imported meat processed in the UK under a British label.  Yet poor labelling persists.  People have a right to know where their food comes from.  Meat labelled ‘British' should be born and bred in Britain, raised to our high welfare standards.  Conservatives are demanding honest labelling to restore trust and allow people to choose British food with confidence.

"Honest Food is not about protectionism - consumers should be free to choose food from any country.  Clear labelling will empower consumers, not restrict their options.  Other EU countries fight for the interests of their consumers and their farming industry within the trading rules.  It's time for the British Government to show the same spine."

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For further details of the ‘Honest Food' campaign, visit http://www.honestfoodcampaign.com/.

2. EU regulations provide for compulsory origin labelling where its absence might mislead the consumer. Mr Herbert produced evidence of food purchased from leading supermarkets last week with labelling which is at best unclear and at worst misleading - examples were found at a number of major food retailers, including Tesco, Sainsbury's and Marks & Spencer.

3. A survey conducted by ICM shows strong public support for the aims of the ‘Honest Food' campaign (ICM Research interviewed a random sample of 1002 adults aged 18+ by telephone on 11-12 February 2009. Interviews were conducted around the country and the results have been weighted to the profile of all adults. ICM is a member of the British Polling Council and abides by its rules). Summary of question findings:

Q.1 When buying food products do you like to know which country the food comes from or are you not really interested in this information?

Would like to know

62%

Not interested

38%

Q.2 Some people say that the government should ensure that the country of origin should be clearly shown on food products.  Do you agree or disagree?

Agree

87%

Disagree

13%

Q.3 If a product such as sausages or bacon is labelled as British or ‘produced in the UK', do you think it means...

The sausages or bacon are processed in Britain from an animal reared in Britain

51%

The sausages or bacon are processed in Britain from imported meat

44%

Don't know

5%

Q.4 What do you think a product such as sausages or bacon labelled as British or ‘produced in the UK' should mean?

The sausages or bacon are from an animal reared in Britain

89%

The sausages or bacon are processed in Britain from imported meat

9%

Don't know

2%

Q.5 Thinking about food purchased for hospitals, schools and the armed forces, which of these statements comes closest to your views?

Food in hospitals, schools and the armed forces should be produced to British standards

90%

Food in hospitals, schools and the armed forces should be sourced at the cheapest cost to the taxpayer

10%

Q.6 If food was clearly labelled with its country of origin, which of the following would come closest to your view...

I would be inclined to buy British food even if it cost a bit more

53%

I would be inclined buy British food provided that it was no more expensive

33%

I would be inclined to buy the cheapest food wherever it came from

13%

Q.7 Some people have said that we should aim to grow more of the food we eat as we have become too dependent on imported food.  Do you agree or disagree?

Agree

89%

Disagree

11%

4. Best practice guidance from the Food Standards Agency requires packaging to advise on origin, for instance, where bacon products derive from imported pork, that this should be clearly labelled. However, uptake of this guidance across the industry has been inadequate. The Government has rejected calls to introduce a labelling system which requires the genuine country of origin, rather than country of last processing, to be clearly and unambiguously displayed.

Ed Barker