Restaurants pressed on origin labelling
23 July, 2012
Restaurants and pubs should do much more to tell customers where in the world their food has come from, the government’s food and farming minister has said.
The call from Jim Paice steps up the pressure on operators after voluntary labelling around country of origin was introduced a year and a half ago. The government has been frustrated at the lack of action on labelling since then, and wants to see rapid improvement from all those selling food. Paice is now writing to the British Hospitality Association to ask it to urge all members to start showing the origin of the main ingredients in all of its meals.
Paice claimed customers want to see greater transparency on sourcing. “More than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, so it’s disappointing to see little improvement in the number of food products showing this information. Origin labelling helps people make informed choices and gives assurances on quality, production methods and environmental impact. Whether it’s on a label, menu or given verbally, I want to see all of industry making every effort to provide this information that the consumer has made it clear they want.”
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs has issued the call following a study that revealed that the proportion of foods that are labeled with their country of origin had actually gone down in some sectors since it made the call for voluntary standards. It also points to research from the Food Standards Agency as evidence of public support for country of origin labelling.
The British Hospitality Association said it supported Defra’s call in principle, but pointed out that operators face practical difficulties in fulfilling their obligations. Food and technical affairs adviser John Dyson said: “Of course, we recognise that customers are keen to have more information on the country of origin of key ingredients but in the current difficult economic environment and tough trading conditions a very practical solution, which will assist food service businesses in meeting their customers’ aspirations, will be needed. Many caterers are already very pleased to state the origin of some of the products on their menus, such as meat or fish, but suppliers—and their source of supply—can change suddenly for reasons of availability, cost, quality or other factors. Restaurants with standard printed menus will have great difficulty in allowing for such sudden changes.”
The BHA said it would work with Defra on a workshop around country of origin labelling.
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