Country of Origin LabellingNew guidelines for labelling of pork products

25 February 2010

Meat packaging

Simplified meat labels could make it harder to know what you're buying.

Supermarkets sign up to a new voluntary labelling code for pork, but Which? wants the food industry to go further

A number of major supermarkets, including the Co-operative, Morrisons, Marks and Spencer, Sainsburys, Tesco and Asda, and restaurant chains have signed up to a new voluntary code that will show the origin of pork used in a variety of products. But the new code only covers pork - it says nothing about other products. It also doesn't cover protein powders.

Which? recently investigated origin labelling in 'Produced in the UK: But where's it from?' in our March issue, where we expressed concern that manufacturers could get round current EU proposals to make supermarket labels explaining where your food comes from clearer by simply leaving off all country of origin labelling.

When we asked 1,000 members of the public what they wanted on food labels, 80% said they thought it important to have accurate country of origin labelling on all meat and poultry, and more than 70% also wanted it for all fish, dairy products, fruit and vegetables. 

Protein powders 

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Manufacturers can enhance meat using some strange products you might not be aware of, and you could be eating them in restaurants without knowing it. 

Protein powders, like hydrolysed collagen, can be added to meat products like chicken breasts to help keep added water inside. When the FSA analysed these powders in 2009 it found evidence of beef and pork proteins. 

This practice isn't illegal, and the information doesn't have to passed on to you - the consumer. This is a big problem if you avoid beef and pork for religious or ethical reasons. Meat products in supermarkets do have to tell you about the ingredients, although they can choose where to display this information.

What we want 

We support the EU proposals and welcome the new voluntary scheme, but we want both to go further. Until food labelling is mandatory consumers won't get the full picture. Which? urges the FSA and EU to act so that consumers can have peace of mind when buying food and when eating out.