This week one industry expert branded the EU’s new plans to drop the requirement for independent verification of voluntary veal and beef labelling as a ‘backwards step’ for food traceability.
As previously reported on this blog, at present any voluntary claims which are beyond the legally required beef labelling information requirement must be registered, with the Rural Payments Agency (RPA). Verified independently before they can be approved – as part of the wider European Beef Labelling Scheme.
According to a report in Meat Trades Journal a spokesperson for the RPA has confirmed that this EU regulatory requirement is to be removed with effect from 13 December 2014. Following changes to some of EU rules concerned with beef labelling which were agreed earlier this year.
“After this date voluntary beef labelling will be aligned with the general EU rules on food information for consumers. This will remove much of the unnecessary financial and administrative burden, facing a range of food business operators across the beef industry when making voluntary claims, particularly small businesses” he confirmed.
Food sector manager at leading accredited food product certifiers, Kiwa PAI, Lesley Hemson, told the Meat Trades Journal that this is a significant step backwards in terms of labelling requirements, particularly in the wake of the horse meat scandal, reduced consumer confidence in beef origins and the findings of the Elliot Review published earlier this month.
An RPA spokesperson went on to suggest in the journal that any information added to beef labels on a voluntary basis after the 13th December cut off point would still need to comply with “the rules on the provision of food information to consumers contained in Regulation (EU) 1169/2011, which are enforced by local authorities” and that “the removal of the voluntary beef labelling notification and approval processes will have no impact on the traceability of beef or unprocessed beef products as this is maintained under the compulsory beef labelling rules”.
Hemson explains how this might affect the verification process as Trading Standards would now be employed to check the claims.
“Previously we would visit the abattoir, farm, farm shop or retailer to check that these claims were accurate before reporting back to the RPA on whether the necessary standards had been met.
Trading Standards have a lot of companies to get round. Will they really make it round to all of them? If the independent verification process was working, then why remove it?”
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