Parliament - Food Bill: Tory anger over limited debate on food labelling

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THE TORIES branded the Government's decision to limit debate on the Food Standards Bill, which sets up a new food safety watchdog, as "high-handed and dictatorial" last night.

MPs complained they did not have enough time to call for tight new food labelling laws to ensure the country of origin of all major ingredients in a product was clearly marked.

The Conservatives expressed outrage at the decision to "guillotine" the bill, claiming it would mean a lack of parliamentary scrutiny.

But, opening debate, Margaret Beckett, the Commons leader, claimed MPs had tried to "disrupt the smooth passage and progress of business" in earlier debates.

Tim Yeo, the Conservative spokesman on food and agriculture, said the Food Standards Agency would do little to improve the scrutiny of imported food. He called for all products to carry a full list of ingredients, including those which are genetically modified. He also said the country of origin of each major item and the system of production used should be listed.

Mr Yeo bought in a basket of items which he said showed how confusing the current system of labelling was. They included Lancashire hotpot which described itself as British but did not specify the origin of the lamb used; a Cornish pasty marked "made in Cornwall" but with no indication of whether the meat was British, and Lincolnshire sausages which may or may not have been made in the county.

"Only the most hawk-eyed consumer would spot those anomalies," Mr Yeo said. "These products may well contain British meat, but if they do they should jolly well advertise the fact. If it's not British meat, they should say where it is from."

He said rules governing the labelling of GM products were "heavily deceitful" and that a threshold of 3 per cent "tolerance" for GM ingredients in food was unacceptable because it was technically possible to identify them much more accurately.