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• This note covers the law on whether the Government could insist that terms like “made in Britain” were used and also limited to have a particular meaning in terms of the extent of British content.

• The law requires that labels should not mislead, but a food label with “British” may reflect only a modest amount of domestic content. For example “British bacon” may be bacon sliced, cured and packaged in the UK, but from pigs reared abroad.

• If the UK Government prevented the sale of items labelled as British with a small local content, they might infringe EU laws on free trade within the Union.

• The EU has developed its own system of protecting distinctive local foods.

• Foods linked to particular areas can be registered under the EU scheme. Products that do not qualify cannot use that designation. For several years, the scheme was dominated by Continental foods but gradually the number of registered UK foods has increased. Examples include Scotch beef and Cornish clotted cream.

• New EU regulations in 2011 will require origin labelling for meat from 2015.

• Food Standards Agency research concluded that consumers are aware of origin labelling but it is not the main concern when purchasing. Standard assured labels were often misunderstood, with consumers believing them to be a guarantee of safety and country of origin. Labels on most foods present consumers with more information than they can reasonably process, leading to confusion.

• The Coalition Programme for Government states “We will introduce honesty in food labelling so that consumers can be confident about where their food comes from and its environmental impact.”

Documents to download

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