EU likely to row back on country of origin proposals
Country of origin labelling for dairy products looks likely to remain voluntary, following the publication of two major EU reports on the issue.
They concluded that the benefits from new mandatory labelling requirements do not outweigh the costs involved, and that voluntary labelling rules are more suitable.
"In spite of a consumers' interest for the origin of milk [and] milk products used as an ingredient, consumers' overall willingness to pay for this information appears to be modest," concluded one report.
Country of origin labelling is mandatory on beef, poultry, lamb, pork and fruit and vegetable products.
The European Parliament and council are now reviewing the report before a decision is taken on what to do next.
TJ Flanagan of ICOS said that the reports confirmed that compulsory labelling of dairy products was contrary to fundamental EU trading principles.
"Irish processing co-ops would have difficulties logistically as they use products from Northern Ireland that would effectively require a different label," he said.
However, British dairy bosses were disappointed with the result. "There is obvious consumer demand for clearer information on the country of origin of food products," said Dairy UK's Judith Bryans.