A coalition of U.K. dairy groups, including Dairy UK, the National Farmers Union and British Cheese Board, has published an August 1, 2013, letter in The Daily Telegraph, urging the European Commission (EC) to tighten regulations governing country-of-origin labeling (COOL). Stating that current regulations permit imported dairy products to be stamped with “UK marks,” the coalition has requested that only dairy products made in “this country, from milk produced by Britain’s dairy farmers should be labeled as British.”
“Unlike other food products . . . country of origin labeling is not mandatory on dairy products and we think that it should be,” said a spokesperson for the coalition. “Many consumers want to buy British dairy products and support British dairy farmers. The current labeling arrangements don’t ensure that they have the information to be able to do that.” According to news sources, of particular concern to the coalition are dairy products that are imported from Ireland and re-packaged with labels bearing the British flag. “There are a lot of people that want to support British farmers. This [labeling system] is misleading consumers. We want a clear and honest system,” the spokesperson said.
Meanwhile, the European Dairy Association has asked the EC not to adopt the proposed mandatory origin labeling, reportedly citing concerns that doing so will be complicated and burdensome, will add additional costs for controls procedures leading to a more expensive product and will not provide additional useful information on food product quality.
Jim Begg, director general of the coalition, acknowledged that adopting COOL would indeed create obstacles for the dairy industry, but reportedly stated that his group believes that respecting consumer preferences is of greater importance. “We also believe that COOL represents an opportunity to generate additional value to the benefit of the entire supply chain, and farmers in particular, that shouldn’t be passed up.” See Just-Food.com, August 2, 2013; Dairy Reporter, August 8, 2013.