Food Labelling

Oral Answers to Questions — Environment, Food and Rural Affairs – in the House of Commons at 12:00 am on 13th October 2016.

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Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East 12:00 am, 13th October 2016

What steps she is taking to improve food labelling.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

Good morning, Mr Speaker. Clear food labelling is vital to show consumers exactly what they are buying. We want to promote the Great British food brand as strongly as possible. One of my top priorities is to look at what more can be done to make it easier for consumers to identify our high-quality home-grown food.

Photo of Kerry McCarthy Kerry McCarthy Labour, Bristol East

The Prime Minister recently said that, with Brexit looming, we will be able to choose our own methods of food labelling, but is there not a lot more that we could do on country of origin and method of production labelling? While we are still in the European Union, we ought to emulate some of our EU partners.

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I certainly welcome the hon. Lady’s interest in this matter. As she will know, country of origin labelling is already mandatory for unprocessed beef, pork, sheep and goat meat, poultry, fruit and vegetables, olive oil, fish, shellfish, wine and honey. There are many additional voluntary schemes, which we are keen to support. As she points out, there will be further opportunities, as we leave the EU, to look at what more consumers would like to see from labelling.

Photo of Neil Parish Neil Parish Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Sub-Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee, Chair, Environment, Food and Rural Affairs Committee

The dairy industry has not really been able to label properly the Great British cheese, butter and milk that is the best in the world. Can we now take this opportunity to ensure that we get the British flag and label on our dairy products?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I am grateful to my hon. Friend for raising that point. He and I share an ambition for the strongest possible promotion of Great British food. He will be aware that the majority of dairy and processed meat products are compliant with the industry’s voluntary principles for origin labelling, but we can, of course, always do more, and we are working with the industry to look at what those options are.

Photo of Jim Shannon Jim Shannon Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Health), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Transport), Shadow DUP Spokesperson (Equality)

I thank the Minister for her comments so far. In my constituency, many farmers have already diversified—Glastry Farm ice cream, Mash Direct and Willowbrook Foods are examples—but they have found difficulties with labelling. What help has been given to provide clear guidance and support? What initiatives are in place to provide that to new business and to make sure that the labelling is correct?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

As the hon. Gentleman will know, it is an absolute Government priority that food information must not mislead—it must be accurate, clear and easy to understand for the consumer. There are clear guidelines on which foods must carry mandatory information but, as I have already mentioned, a number of food producers already go further on a voluntary basis to try to ensure that they meet consumers’ desires for more information about the food that they eat. I am very proud that the UK has some of the highest standards for food and food traceability in the world.

Photo of Stephen Crabb Stephen Crabb Conservative, Preseli Pembrokeshire

One Welsh business in my constituency that understands the importance and power of labelling and branding is Daioni, which exports organic British milk to China, Hong Kong, Vietnam and the Emirates, and has plans to expand further. Will the Secretary of State or one of her Ministers meet Daioni to talk about its plans for international expansion and to tap into its expertise in exporting Great British food?

Photo of Andrea Leadsom Andrea Leadsom The Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs

I would be absolutely delighted to do that. Exports of organic dairy produce are a huge success for the UK. Later today, I am off to the Great British export truck, which is parked at Stoneleigh, to hear about British exports. I am off to the Paris food fair to promote Great British food next week, and I am off to China next month to do exactly that. I am always very keen to promote the export of Great British food.