All you need to know about new country of origin labelling rules

New rules on country of origin labelling came into effect recently and will apply to sheepmeat, pigmeat and poultry.

Here’s the key information from the European Commission detailing the new laws.

What meat is covered by these labelling rules? Do the rules apply to meat that is sold non pre-packed, e.g. in butcher shops?

The new EU rules concern fresh, chilled and frozen meat from pigs, poultry, sheep and goats that is sold pre-packed to final consumers or mass caterers. However, Member States have the possibility to make these rules also obligatory for meat that is not pre-packed.

Do the labelling rules also apply to processed meat preparations, such as meat pies, lasagne, etc?

The new labelling rules do not apply to processed meat or preparations, such as cured hams or meat pies. In that respect, the Commission has published a specific report on the possibility to extend mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for meat used as an ingredient. Discussion with the European Parliament, the Member states and stakeholders is ongoing, and the Commission is still reflecting on the way forward. For further information: http://ec.europa.eu/food/food/labellingnutrition/foodlabelling/index_en.htm.

What happens for BBQ packs which contain different meats?

Where several pieces of meat are presented in the same pack, the label must indicate the relevant information for all the different unprocessed meats contained in the pack. However, meat preparations such as sausages are exempt from these requirements.

What about (unprocessed) beef?

The indication of the country of birth, rearing and slaughter has already been labelled for beef since 2002.

Why is there no ‘born in’ requirement for these meats (as there is for beef)?

The new rules are based on an impact assessment, which concluded that, for pork, poultrymeat, sheepmeat and goatmeat, consumers are most interested in the place of farming, i.e. “reared in” rather than “born in”.

The existing identification and traceability rules for these animals do not provide information on the place of birth. Such a requirement would therefore require the introduction of a series of additional administrative measures and increased costs, likely to be disproportionate. In practice, the volume of individual cattle movements is significantly higher than with pigs, poultry, sheep and goats.

Do these rules mean that additional labels, logos, flags will no longer be permitted?

There is no change to the rules on voluntary labelling of additional information including logos or flags. The new rules simply introduce the compulsory information “reared in” and “slaughtered in” on labels for these meats throughout the EU Single Market.

What happens with imported meats from pigs, poultry, sheep and goats?

The rules apply also to imported pre-packed meat sold on the EU market. In this case, the same “reared in” and “slaughtered in” labelling rules apply, with the name of the non-EU country indicated. If the information on rearing is not known (in a way which respects the permitted timing detailed in the regulation), then the label can state “reared in non-EU” together with the country of slaughter.

What about other meats (rabbit, horse, etc)?

The Commission has commissioned an external study on mandatory origin labelling for unprocessed meat other than beef, pig, poultry, sheep and goat (http://ec.europa.eu/agriculture/calls-for-tender/2013-242799_en.htm). On this basis, the Commission is currently preparing a report for presentation to the Council and the European Parliament on this subject.

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