COOL: Country of Origin Labelling

close up of sausage and fork on white background with clipping path

Sometimes in the European parliament, an issue that seems on the face of it perfectly clear-cut turns out to be rather more complicated.  On Wednesday we voted on “COOL” – country-of-origin labelling for meat in processed foods.  Note that word “processed” – it comes up later.

Of course after the horsemeat and other scandals, consumers are quite rightly concerned to know where their food comes from.  If you ask them, 90% plus will say they want labelling.  And if you ask British farmers or the NFU, they’ll say the same – probably 100%.

So that’s easy then.  Open-and-shut case.  Please the voters and the farmers in one go.

But sadly it’s more complicated than that, and the fly in the ointment is that word “processed”.  Of course if we’re dealing with a primary meat product – steak from Argentina, or bacon from Denmark, or a chicken from Thailand – then it can and should be labelled with the country-of-origin.

But processed foods are different.  Let’s take a sausage.  It may have more than one type of meat – beef and pork, say, perhaps with some chicken as a filler.  If it’s a high-quality, high price product, the maker may well buy consistently from familiar sources, and labelling might be practical.  But for a cheaper product, the company’s buyer may well be watching the market and picking prices on a daily basis, getting a consignment of beef from Romania today and Somerset tomorrow and Bolivia next week.  And he’ll be making similar decisions on other days and other meats.

So in any one sausage on any one day, the meat used may come from many places – and will probably be different tomorrow.  The effect of this COOL legislation will be twofold:

First, merely adding a new labelling process involves more administration and cost (and inevitably more wasted packaging).  But secondly, it may be entirely impractical to continue buying best value on the day, so the average cost of the meat in the sausage will go up as well.  It’s a double whammy for prices.

And who suffers?  The poor.  The old.  The single mum on welfare struggling to feed the children.  These people may well be relying on those low-cost sausages to provide a square meal, and we’ve deliberately chosen to make them more expensive – and for some, unaffordable.  It’s back to bread and dripping.

This is a classic case where we should let the market decide.  If you want sausages with meat from a declared source, there will be supermarkets who will offer just that – at a price.  Or you could go to your high-street butcher, who will probably be able to tell you which field the beef was raised on.  But if price is your first criterion, and you’re less concerned about country of origin, that option should still be available.  We’ve voted in parliament to take that choice away.  We’re almost literally taking food out of the mouths of the poor.

So it was a tough decision.  Frankly, I wanted to vote against the whole thing.  But in a political party it is important to stick together as far as possible, and colleagues felt that the opinions of voters and farmers were the key factor, even though the voters may not have been in a position to think through the implications.  So I abstained.

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16 Responses to COOL: Country of Origin Labelling

  1. Ex-expat Colin says:

    They can print what they like on the labels…you”ll not know really. Thats until you puke/go a bit looney…. or similar?

    In Saudi Arabia every import was meticulously inspected and anything with the merest link to alcohol was redacted with a black marker pen. They may as well have painted the package backs black…quicker/cheaper.

    Think some schools had to take bangers off the kids menu….that multicultural thing consuming too much time checking for pork…and whatever!

  2. jepoynton says:

    Banger on Roger, I’m with you on this one. Do we really need a three-line whip on this sort of thing?
    John Poynton. UKIP PPC Ealing Southall.

  3. Jane Davies says:

    Oh my goodness who would have thought the humble sausage would be so complicated! It’s a difficult one that’s for sure, I rarely buy sausages but when I do I buy the locally made, “Campbell River Sausage Shop” variety which says it’s ingredients are locally sourced. I’m reluctant to buy anything that originates from China, Thailand or anywhere else that has dodgy food production standards.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      I sympathise with your views of imported food, Jane. But I lived for years in South East Asia, and ate street food from open stalls that would have given a British Hygiene Inspector an apoplexy — yet I never suffered from it. The roti chanai was spectacular. On the other hand, like everyone else I got the Delhi Belly within forty-eight hours of arriving in India!

  4. I solved my meat problem, I go every week to my local butcher, I did some time ago ask him if he did hal lal meat, there was a deathly silence, then one of the women who was serving said, that she they did not serve hal lal meat. The meat is locally sourced and slaughtered. I know what goes in my sausages, they are made on the premises, and they are very nice, not fatty but nice and meaty.

  5. Mike says:

    We’ve been skint and the last thing we’ll buy is cheap sausages. A chicken does much better. Most supermarket chickens are too small these days but we’ve found an Aldi chicken is just of 4 quid and does our family of 5, 2 dinners. Aldi chickens are British to boot. Cheap sausages are false economy as once cooked there’s not much left but the cereal used as a filler and binder.
    Glad you brought this point about the mass produced processed “meat” products as I am one of those who support “COOL” but didn’t realise the full implications

    • Katie says:

      I have started shopping at Aldi and am pleased I changed from my usual supermarket. I bought a large free range chicken for £6 from the UK the other day and it did my husband and myself for 4 main meals and then I made a chicken and veg soup from the carcass and left over meat. Great stuff. YOu don’t have to eat junk food but just apply yourself and use a little time to do health meals.

    • Joseph Croft says:

      we used to buy Aldi chicken until I checked the EU meat code , which came up as Halal , and as I don’t fund any ones religion we don’t buy it any more

  6. stallardmike says:

    English chicken? Battery or free range or genuinely free range? English sausages, cereal (see above) or decent? Romanian horsemeat? Why not actually? It isn’t a matter of nationality. It is a matter of public safety (lead in milk) and public choice. I do not see what business it is of the EU at all. What have we come to when they choose our food for us?

  7. Flyinthesky says:

    The cost of labelling is a non starter, the actual cost of it in the greatest number of cases would be less than 1p per unit reducing as capital cost was recovered. I speak with experience of ten years as a packaging engineer. This isn’t a cost issue.
    The actual issue here is the processors don’t wish to label meat with country of origin. They wish to retain flexibility for their own benefit. Another issue for the producers is they wouldn’t want labelling to illustrate national origin is certain nations wouldn’t want to knowingly purchase meat from a competitor nation, ie if you try to market a burger in France that was 100% British beef a lot of French people wouldn’t buy it on principle.

    ” even though the voters may not have been in a position to think through the implications.”
    The standard defence for all these issues, look where that perspective has got us! They’ll never know till they ask will they but that’s never going to be on the menu. “We know best”.

    • Roger Helmer MEP says:

      I disagree on one point, Fly. They want to retain flexibility to meet a price point. Yes, it’s to their benefit — but also to the benefit of consumers who appreciate that price point. And I suspect your cost of labelling involves merely the printing — not the administrative nightmare of constant changes and wasted packaging materials.

  8. Ex-expat Colin says:

    cumin…now peanuts. Check those labels folks….for what thats worth?

    D. Teleg today….LOL

  9. Ex-expat Colin says:

    Who would be the VIs in Argentina we are paying? (Overseas Aid…more nuts!)

    UKIP MEP Nathan Gill said it was “inconceivable that Britain has contributed £7 million to Argentina in foreign aid, via a £50 million EU aid programme.”

    “In the light that Argentina has now purchased Chinese fighter jets, all aid to Argentina must be cancelled immediately.

    “It is an insult to veterans of the Falklands war, those who lost loved ones and the hard pressed British tax payer for this government is funding the Kirchner regime.”

    Breitbart London this am

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