The European Parliament today voted on a resolution to call on the EU Commission to introduce legislation to make country of origin labelling compulsory for all meat product used in processed food. Ireland South MEP Deirdre Clune has slammed the measure as Red Tape dressed up as consumer protection,
"I voted against compulsory origin labelling for meat product used in processed food today. I think we have to send a strong message that excessive regulation for SMEs will not be tolerated. 99% of EU businesses have fewer than 250 employees. This is about protecting jobs. They are the job creators in Ireland and they must be protected against regulation and unnecessary rep tape. Irish food companies already adhere to a wide range of food safety, traceability and quality standards. Let's be very clear on this, the proposed measures would not enhance food safety or quality. They would however undermine competitiveness, create inefficiencies, and threaten jobs in an industry which already experiences significant competitive disadvantages. They would also increase consumer prices and food wastage. We already have origin labelling for fresh meat. If food producers feel there is a demand for further origin labelling on meat product in processed food in their particular market, then let them introduce it on a voluntary basis.
"The basis of this motion sought to force food producers making processed foods to label where each individual piece of meat product that are used as ingredients in their product came from. So take the example of a food producer in Ireland who makes pizzas. This measure would mean that they would have to label the country of origin for the different kinds of frozen meat toppings on top of the pizza. One week, they may get their toppings in France, the next week in Italy. On average SMEs tend to change their supplier three or more times a year to get the best prices according to the EU Commissions own impact statement. They may have several different types of Pizza meaning several different label changes. They change their meat suppliers regularly as they get better deals. This proposal would force them to change all the labelling on their product.
"The EU Commissions own impact assessment concluded that country of origin labelling for member states in the EU would add between 8 and 12% to the overall production costs of a business and lead to increased price pressure on farmers. Furthermore, the impact assessment showed it would increase administrative costs for authorities of between 10 and 30%. The Impact assessment by the Commission also showed that a label showing where the meat in a processed product has come from does not rank high amongst consumers concerns. Consumers were primarily concerned with taste, quality of the food, price and best before date.
"The impact assessment showed that consumers were not willing to pay the estimated 5-9% increase in prices that would come about by this measure. 90% of companies in the meat processing sector are SMEs according to the Commissions evaluation. SMEs account for 63% of all employment in the sector.
"Simply put, this measure is added rep tape dressed up as consumer protection. Consumers don't want it, business doesn't want it and if it ends up costing jobs, then I certainly don't want it! Europe must be big on the big things and little on the little things! We cannot continue to allow proposals that are adding layers of Red Tape to an already overburdened SME sector.