Thursday, 29 January 2009
Department of Agriculture and Food
The Minister for Health and Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Under the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC), the place of origin of the foodstuff must be given only if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. The European Commission is currently undertaking a major review of all food labelling legislation. In this context the Commission has prepared draft revised labelling regulations and these are being discussed at Council Working Party level in Brussels. These draft regulations will be submitted to the EU Council of Health ministers during 2009.
Notwithstanding the outcome of the current review on origin labelling progress has been made in relation to specific products:
EU beef labelling legislation requiring country of origin labelling of beef has been in place since September 2000. As this legislation did not cover beef sold by the catering trade my Department collaborated with the Department of Health and Children to have national legislation enacted to require that all beef sold or served in the retail or catering sector is now required to carry an indication of the country of origin. This legislation is enforced by the FSAI.
Regarding the labelling of poultry meat, there are EU Regulations, which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultry meat at retail level. The Regulations require such poultry meat to be labelled with the information regarding class, price, condition, registered number of slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin.
My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, drafted regulations that would require the country of origin to be indicated on pigmeat, poultry and sheepmeat. This was notified to the EU Commission in December 2007 as required by legislation. The Commission was not prepared to adopt the draft regulations in their present format on the grounds that the proposed legislation is not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations. In March, the EU Commission delivered a negative opinion on the regulations but afforded Ireland an opportunity to provide further information in support of them. In the meantime, the Department provided additional details including the current misleading labelling practices and evidence of consumers' desire for country of origin labelling. However the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health formally adopted the negative opinion in December 2008.
The EU has 36 specific marketing standards covering fresh fruit and vegetables. Apart from quality criteria these standards also set down strict provisions regarding labelling, including country of origin. The EU Commission is currently reforming the Common Organisation of the market for fruit and vegetables. As part of this process a number of the existing specific standards will be replaced by a general standard, which will cover a wider range of fruit and vegetables.