Nick Herbert launches 'Sussex Breakfast' with call for honest food labelling

Arundel & South Downs MP Nick Herbert has once again spoken out in support of local food production and called on the big supermarkets to back his campaign for ‘honest food’ labelling.

The Shadow Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs was speaking at the launch of the ‘Sussex Breakfast' scheme at the South of England Show near Ardingly on Thursday (11 June).

The Sussex Breakfast is being pioneered by the Sussex Tourism Partnership as an accreditation scheme to encourage local hotels, restaurants and other venues to serve Sussex produce.  More than 50 local businesses have already been accredited.

Mr Herbert praised Sussex food producers but criticised some of the major supermarkets for failing to support clear ‘country of origin' labelling of meat and meat products.

The MP said: "I feel very strongly about the importance of supporting local food producers.  We are letting British farmers down when it's possible for meat to be imported into this country, receive minimal processing and then be passed off as British produce."

Mr Herbert said that it was right that British farmers should continue to meet tough animal welfare standards, but these are "completely undermined" when meat is bought from countries that do not abide by the same standards and then passed off as British.  Mr Herbert said that it was unfair on farmers and denied "real choice" to UK consumers who want to buy high-quality, local produce.

Mr Herbert welcomed the positive stance taken by Marks & Spencer and Waitrose, but accused Tesco and Sainsbury's of "standing in the way" of country of origin labelling, adding: "The truth is that they don't want you to know where some of their food comes from and I think that's wrong.  Food labelled ‘British' should be born and bred in Britain."

The MP also said that the Government should do more to procure British food with its own budget.

Commenting on the Sussex Breakfast, Mr Herbert said: "I'm delighted to be speaking at the launch of this scheme.  I'm not surprised that our breakfast was so delicious, because it was sourced locally, including from many producers in my constituency."

Mr Herbert's comments were echoed by Clive Beddall OBE, former editor of the Grocer magazine and Chairman of the Sussex Food and Drink Awards 2009/10, which were also launched at the breakfast event.

Mr Beddall said: "The choice of ‘Eat Local' as the theme for this year's Show is not only timely, but also entirely appropriate as it reflects a nationwide trend that is having a profound effect on the way UK food and drink is being produced and sold.

"I've written about the food business for over 40 years and I cannot recall a time when the spotlight on local produce has been so strong.  I'm glad to be sharing a stage with Nick Herbert MP as he has rapidly made his mark in the food and farming sector in a way that many in the business believe augurs well for the future.

"Nick's highly pertinent comments about country of origin labelling, for example, have been widely welcomed across the industry.  Like many others, I have always been astounded that meat imported from abroad and processed into products like bacon, sausages and pies in Britain can be labelled as ‘British'."

During his visit, Mr Herbert attended the official opening of the South of England Show and was given a tour of the showground, meeting farmers and producers from across Sussex.

At the NFU ‘Meet the Farmer' exhibit, which boasted a stunning display of Sussex produce, he met young chefs from Sussex Downs College who were demonstrating their cookery skills.  Mr Herbert also met local schoolchildren and purchased a cookery book in aid of their herb garden.

The MP also attended a formal lunch hosted by the South of England Agricultural Society in the presence of HRH Princess Alexandra.

Today (Monday 15 June), Mr Herbert is leading a Commons debate on the rural economy and will point out that rural areas are being hit hard by the downturn.  He will say that there is untapped potential in rural areas to foster small businesses which can provide sustainable jobs growth in the future.

Ends

 

Notes for Editors

1. For further details of the South of England Show, visit http://www.seas.org.uk/shows.asp?ID=2.

2. The Sussex Tourism Partnership's Sussex Breakfast accreditation scheme encourages local hotels, restaurants and other venues to serve at least 60 per cent of local, seasonal ingredients sourced from Sussex farms using traditional, natural methods with high animal welfare standards. For more information, visit http://www.visitsussex.org/site/food-and-drink/sussex-breakfast.

3. The breakfast event, attended by Nick Herbert, included sausages and bacon from S K Hutchins of Partridge Green; eggs from Park Farm, Arundel; tomatoes from Gary Griffiths of Nutbourne; mushrooms from the Sussex Mushroom Company, Thakeham; honey from Payne's Southdown Bee Farms in Hassocks; tomato ketchup, brown sauce and mustard from the Relish in Spice Company of Ford near Arundel; apple juice from Tullens Fruit Farm, Pulborough; and milk from Southview Farm Dairy, Bury.

4. The Sussex Food and Drink Awards were created in 2006 to support local farmers and producers and to reward and encourage businesses that use and promote Sussex produce. Voting for the 2009/10 awards opened on Thursday 11 June. For further details, visit http://www.sussexfoodawards.com/.

5. Under current rules, meat imported from abroad and processed here - such as bacon, sausages and pies - can be labelled British. The Honest Food campaign, launched in February, 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 campaign is endorsed by food celebrities including Hugh Fernley-Whittingstall and Clarissa Dickson Wright. For further details visit http://www.honestfoodcampaign.com/.

6. The photograph shows Nick Herbert visiting the sheep pens, with from left to right: Michael Lambert, Honorary Treasurer of the South of England Agricultural Society; Nick Herbert MP; sheep farmer Jonathan Long.

Ed Barker