Derek Vaughan MEP

Working hard for Wales in Europe

Food industry "must now accept the need for honest labelling"

Food manufacturers must now accept the need to be more upfront and honest about the way they label their packages.

Food labelling

That's the message from Welsh Labour MEP, DEREK VAUGHAN, after the European Parliament voted to require companies to display more nutritional information about their products on the front of packs.

A massive lobby by the food industry defeated proposals by parliamentarians to require the use of "traffic light labels" on many processed foods, but manufacturers failed in their attempts to block more honest labelling about where products are produced.

In an important victory for consumers, the parliament backed rules to prevent products largely produced with imported ingredients from being misleadingly labelled as British. That's a move that will be welcomed by the National Farmers Unions and consumer groups.

At present the processing of a food in the UK can allow companies to label it as British, even though the meat could have come from an animal that was reared and slaughtered abroad.

Although not approving colour coded labels, the parliament did back a requirement for foods to include key nutritional information, including the amount of salt, fat and sugar contained in the product, on the front of packaging.

Manufacturers were pushing to limit this requirement to the back of the pack.

Speaking from Strasbourg, DEREK VAUGHAN MEP said:

"There is a responsibility on food manufacturers to be upfront with their customers.  The rules approved by Members of the European Parliament today make it clear that consumers should not be misled by food packaging.

It's an important victory that I know will be welcomed by farmers and, most importantly, by shoppers who want to know exactly where their food has come from."

Speaking about the failure to push through a traffic light scheme Mr Vaughan added:

"It is especially sad that talks took place in a climate of misinformation - due in no small part to the campaign being waged against consumer-friendly labels.

Manufacturers have spent much time and money on avoiding giving their own customers honest information about their food. Companies need instead to be using their resources to assist consumers understand exactly what they're buying."

Today's first reading vote will now be considered by ministers from EU governments.

Mr Vaughan continued:

"EU governments now need to agree to these provisions, and food manufacturers are already pushing hard for them to weaken the parliament's plans.

We must be serious about tackling heart disease and obesity and we have to help people understand how much salt, fat and sugar is in their food. That's particularly true for products like ready meals and prepacked sandwiches where the label is the only way of knowing how healthy something is.

Labour MEPs will continue to campaign to give shoppers the right to know exactly what is in their food."

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