On 11 February 2015, the European Parliament voted in favour of a Resolution calling upon the European Commission to introduce mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) for meat in processed products.
In December 2013 the European Commission issued, as required by the Food Information to Consumers Regulation 1169/2011 (FIC), a Report on country of origin labelling for meat in processed products together with a related Staff Working Document on “Origin labelling for meat used as an ingredient: consumers’ attitude, feasibility of possible scenarios and impacts”. These studies found that 90% of consumers want meat origin labelled on their processed foods such as lasagnas and sausages, but were not prepared to pay for it and that do implement such rules would place a heavy cost burden on producers.
Following up on the Report and the Staff Working Document, the EP resolution requests the European Commission to prepare a legislative proposal for introduction of mandatory COOL for meat as an ingredient. The Resolution also point out that other studies on consumer preferences concerning COOL for meat, for instance in France, present different findings in particular as regards the impact on cost. Therefore further studies, in cooperation with consumer organizations and not only with industry, should be carried out, without delaying the work on a legislative proposal.
MEPs also proved critical of voluntary labelling schemes as they were often found to be misleading. They requested the Commission to review these schemes “and propose clear, consistent, harmonised and enforceable rules when producers decide to implement voluntary origin labelling.”
As regards preventing fraud similar to the horsemeat scandal, MEPs noted that origin labelling “does not in itself prevent fraud,” however, “a rigorous traceability system does contribute to detecting possible infringements and taking action against them.”
Legislative proposals at EU level may only be tabled by the European Commission, thus the Resolution from the European Parliament can only be seen as an invitation for the Commission to take action in this direction. At the same time, the Resolution is indicative of the determination of the European Parliament to defend the interests of consumers with regard to COOL of meat ingredients.