Tesco backs 'country of origin' meat drive

The UK's biggest retailer Tesco today backed the Conservatives' campaign to ensure food labels have better information to tell consumers where meat products come from.

Shadow environment secretary Nick Herbert said Tesco and Morrisons had pledged to implement measures called for by the Tories' Honest Food Campaign, including labels which spell out the origin of meat from abroad which is used in British-made foods such as ready meals.

Mr Herbert described Tesco's decision to take steps to give consumers more information on their labels as "hugely significant" and a welcome step in the right direction.

But he said the Tories were prepared to legislate on requirements for better country-of-origin labelling if a voluntary agreement could not be achieved "across the board".

In January Environment Secretary Hilary Benn described the current EU system, under which a pork pie made from Danish pork could be labelled British if it was processed in this country, as "nonsense".

Mr Benn said the Government was pressing for improvements to European rules to show where an animal was born, reared and slaughtered, and meeting with the food industry in a bid to bring in voluntary country of origin labelling.

But Mr Herbert today accused the Government of being "feeble" over the issue of improving food labelling so consumers could see clearly where their meat was coming from.

He said: "People want clear information about where their food comes from and the supermarkets are responding."

And he added: "The demand for greater transparency of food labelling is an unstoppable campaign.

"It lets down animal welfare and lets down our own producers if meat can be passed of as British when it isn't."

Tesco's executive director of corporate and legal affairs, Lucy Neville-Rolfe, said: "It is very important to provide clear information so customers can make informed choices.

"That is why we are so pleased to support the Honest Food campaign. In future Tesco meat products will display more information about the country of origin further demonstrating what can be achieved by collaboration rather than regulation."

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