Dáil Éireann - Volume 674 - 11 February, 2009

Written Answers. - Food Labelling.

Deputy Noel J. Coonan asked the Minister for Agriculture, Fisheries and Food if he has submitted new proposals to the EU regarding the introduction of national food labelling legislation; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [4986/09]

  Deputy Brendan Smith: The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Under the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC), the place of origin of the foodstuff must be given only if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. The European Commission is currently undertaking a major review of all food labelling legislation. In this context the Commission has prepared draft revised labelling regulations and these are being discussed at Council Working Party level in Brussels. These draft regulations will be submitted to the EU Council of Health ministers during 2009.

Notwithstanding the outcome of the current review on origin labelling my Department has taken steps to try to introduce origin labelling for meats other than beef, which is already subject to specific legislation since September 2000.

Regarding the labelling of poultry meat, there are EU Regulations, which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultry meat at retail level. The Regulations require such poultry meat to be labelled with the information regarding class, price, condition, registered number of slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin.

My Department, in conjunction with the Department of Health and Children, drafted regulations that would require the country of origin to be indicated on pigmeat, poultry and sheepmeat. This was notified to the EU Commission in December 2007 as required by legislation. The Commission was not prepared to adopt the draft regulations in their present format on [518] the grounds that the proposed legislation is not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations. The Commission’s main contention is that only harmonised rules with EU-wide applicability may be applied to food labelling other than in exceptional circumstances. In March, the EU Commission delivered a negative opinion on the regulations but afforded Ireland an opportunity to provide further information in support of them. In the meantime, the Department provided additional details including the current misleading labelling practices and evidence of consumers’ desire for country of origin labelling. However the EU Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health formally adopted the negative opinion in December 2008.

We will continue to pursue this issue in conjunction with Department of Health and Children, at EU level in the context of the current review. In the meantime products carrying the Bord Bia quality assurance label provide consumers with assurance on product origin.