Farm Ireland

Thursday 22 February 2018

New ‘euro coin’ solution to be proposed for EU origin labelling

Ciaran Moran

Ciaran Moran

New labelling rules on food products designed to be similar to a euro coin could soon come into force across the EU.

The idea suggested by EU Health and Food Safety Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis would see food products have a dual national and European origin labelling system just like the two sides of Euro coins.

The issue of origin labelling has been hotly debated in Brussels with a host of countries most notably France introducing country of origin labelling on food products. For many member states, such moves run contrary to the spirit of the EU’s Single Market.

In a recent speech Commissioner Andriukaitis said there is a need for people to work together to defend the internal market against any attempt of renationalisation and while providing an answer to the legitimate expectations of consumers.

“I think we need a common pan-European solution, based on the model of the Euro coins which have a European face and a national one.

“It is not for today to conclude but we need an EU debate and I will certainly follow it in full transparency and envisage the solutions which will be the best ones for our collective EU interest,” he said.

The labelling of food in the European Union is governed by a number of EU regulations which lay down strict requirements including in relation to mandatory country of origin labelling for certain meats.

In recent years the issue of nomad cattle that have spent time in both the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland and therefore cannot be labelled as origin Ireland or origin UK.

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Under EU rules, labels on meat from cattle born and reared in the Republic of Ireland and exported live to Northern Ireland and subsequently slaughtered there, must include the member state of birth and rearing, and the member state of slaughter.

It is possible to include a voluntary label, but this may not contradict mandatory origin labelling, nor does it remove the requirement for mandatory labelling. The possibility of a voluntary all Island label has been previously raised with British retailers, who have made clear that they have a longstanding policy to market British and Irish beef separately, with a simple, clear origin label. 

This means that beef must be sourced from animals originating in one EU Member State i.e. born, reared and slaughtered in Ireland or in the United Kingdom, so that the label can simply indicate "Origin Ireland, or "Origin UK".

The issue has impacted significantly on the live trade in cattle between the Republic of Ireland and Northern Ireland. It is unclear as to whether the new proposal would improve the situation.

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