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CEO's Blog 9 August 2016

Not for the first time, I look across at France and wish our Governments would undertake some of the actions that the French are prepared to do to back their farmers and their food industry.  

The French Government has shown some mettle and are going to force companies to introduce mandatory country of origin labelling for milk and meat in processed foods.  

Time and time again we have pressed Scottish and UK politicians to do this.  Of the many reasons given as to why it can’t be done is the oft used one that EU rules don’t allow it.   Well that’s not an excuse they will be able to use for much longer!  

Again here is France showing that where there is a will there can be a way.  What we need, more than anything, is a change of attitude within Ministerial circles.  An attitude of ‘can do’ rather than one that instantly searches out for reasons why things can’t be done.

France has been given the backing of the EU Commission to go ahead with their plans for mandatory country of origin labelling for a trial period.  Already there are rumours that Italy, Portugal and Lithuania want to do similar origin labelling schemes.  

EU food manufacturers are against it.  For their own reasons, they don’t want to have to tell consumers from which country the ingredients in processed foods come.  

Some manufacturers already provide such information on the label and are proud to declare from where their ingredients come.  Farmers and crofters in Scotland are proud of what they produce and want people to know when they are eating Scottish produce.

We know that consumers support and want country of origin labelling. In a January 2013 report, the European Consumer Organization (BEUC), found that 70 percent of Europeans support food-origin labels and that that support jumps to 90 percent when discussing meat products.

Setting out our priorities for farmers and crofters that must be addressed by the Scottish and UK Governments as we negotiate the UK’s exit from the European Union and develop our future food and farming strategy, we have asked for “clear and unambiguous country of origin labelling on meat, meat products, milk and dairy products to be delivered as soon as possible”.

Well the gauntlet has been well-and-truly thrown down by the French.  If they can do it while remaining in Europe, we should find it much easier to achieve now that we are on our way out of the EU.  

Politicians need to be honest with farmers and crofters and tell us if they want consumers to know the origin of milk and meat in processed foods or do they prefer consumers not knowing where the ingredients in their food comes from.

Author: Scott Walker

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About The Author

Scott Walker

Scott Walker became Chief Executive of NFU Scotland in August 2011. He was previously Policy Director at NFU Scotland, a position to which he was appointed in 2004. He is a member of the Scottish Agricultural Wages Board representing employers' interests. He is a member of Scotland Food & Drink executive group. He is a member of the National Project Assessment Committee for the Scottish Government Food Processing Marketing and Co-operation Grant Scheme.

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