A new approval scheme will make sure that claims made by manufacturers on beef and veal labels are accurate and can be verified. Such labels, on individual pieces of meat, would reveal where an animal was born and slaughtered, and how it was reared. The Beef Labelling Scheme, implementing EU legislation, will come into force on 1 January 1998.
Dr Cunningham said:
"This is good news for consumers. Manufacturers have to prove that the information they put on beef labels is correct and meets our requirements. British beef is produced to some of the highest standards in the world. These new rules can only benefit our beef industry in the wake of the BSE crisis. Beef and veal eaters will be able to see at a glance the quality of the product they are buying. Knowing where our food comes from and how it was produced is vital to improving consumer confidence."
An explanatory booklet explaining the new labelling requirements is being sent to all known beef and veal retailers with help from the Meat and Livestock Commission.
Labels on fresh or frozen beef and veal, and beef and veal mince, will need prior approval for the information they state at the point of sale. The only exception to the rule will be where labels contain very basic information which can easily be checked at the counter.
Approval for more detailed labels will only be given where retailers can prove the accuracy of the information they use. The proof must be verified by an independent third party.
Organisations capable of checking the information on labels are invited to contact MAFF now. The Government will also consider organisations proposed by those applying for label approvals, up to the end of the year. But they will only be considered if they are independent from the applicants (and all those involved in the production and marketing chain of the applicant), and either accredited or seeking accreditation to European Standard EN/45011. Applications for label approvals can be made from 1 November 1997. The new rules will come into effect from 1 January 1998.