The letter seeks views on the proposal to amend the Food Labelling Regulations Guidance Notes to highlight the need to ensure that origin marking provides consumers with clear, accurate information. The proposal has been prompted by concerns that labelling which refers only to the place where a product has been processed can, in some cases, mislead as to the origin of the ingredients.
The Food Labelling Regulations 1996 currently require particulars of the place of origin or provenance to be given on the label of a pre-packed food where failure to do so might mislead the purchaser to a material degree about its true origin or provenance (regulation 5(f)). This requirement implements a similar provision in the EU food labelling Directive (79/112/EEC). Guidance on the application of this requirement is provided in the Food Labelling Regulations Guidance Notes. The Minister wishes to strengthen the guidance notes to highlight the need to ensure that consumers are not misled by place of origin labels where they are provided.
The essential feature of the proposed new guidance is that it emphasises the need to pay special attention to the wording of origin declarations when the source of the main ingredients and the country of final processing may be confused. In these cases, it would be necessary to provide more specific or detailed labelling, including in some cases the origin of the ingredients. For example, imported pork cured in Great Britain would not be labelled as "British" or "Produced in Britain", but might be labelled as "produced in Britain from imported/country of origin pork". A copy of the proposed new advice is given below.
Comments should be submitted by no later than 14 December.
What about place of origin? [Regulation 5(f)]
For the purposes of this requirement, the words "origin" and "provenance" should be taken as having the same meaning.
Particulars of the place (not necessarily the country) of origin or provenance of the food must be shown if failure to give such information might mislead a purchaser to a material degree as to the true origin of the food. Consideration should particularly be given to declaring the place of origin when the name of a place or country appears as part of the name of a food, or its trade or brand or fancy name. Origin marking can also be triggered by pictorial representations (e.g. the use of maps, flags or famous landmarks).
The place of origin of a food may be taken as the place in which it last underwent a substantial change. Care must be taken to avoid misleading consumers when place of origin information is given, particularly where the source of the main ingredients and the country of final processing may be confused. For example:
If the name of the food includes reference to a place, does the place of origin always have to be given as well? [Regulation 5(f)]
The true place of origin should always be given if the label as a whole would otherwise imply that the food, or its main ingredients, comes from, or has been made in, a different place or area. The label as a whole will include not only the name of the food, but also its trade or brand or fancy name and any other written or illustrative material (e.g. maps, flags or famous landmarks).
Consumers are unlikely to expect products such as Cornish pasties, York ham, Frankfurters or Bakewell tarts to come from those areas in the absence of other material on the label suggesting that they do so.
Some place names which appear in the name of a food are reserved for use on particular products from specific regions under regulations governing designation of origin (e.g. Parma ham).
Where required, the place of origin must be easy to understand and clearly legible and, when the food is sold direct to the ultimate consumer, the place of origin marking must be shown in a conspicuous place in such a way as to be easily visible. The place of origin must not in any way be hidden, obscured or interrupted by other written or pictorial matter.