U.K. launches country-of-origin code for pork

by Bryan Salvage
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LONDON — A new labeling code of practice has been introduced in the U.K. for the country of origin for pork and pork products, according to the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (D.E.F.R.A.).

Major supermarkets have endorsed the voluntary code, which intends to provide clear and unambiguous information about country of origin on packs of pork, bacon and ham.

Launched on Feb. 23 at the National Farmers Union Conference by Environment Secretary Hilary Benn, the final code was created as a result of the Pig Meat Supply Chain Task Force, which represents a range of stakeholders including retailers, foodservice companies, consumers, processors, industry organizations, government and its agencies.

“A year ago I said that I wanted to end the nonsense of unclear country-of-origin labeling on pig-meat products — and through the task force bringing together farmers, processors and retailers, we now have a code of practice that will do this,” Mr. Benn said. “I expect all major retailers to sign up and join those who have already decided to end the confusion for shoppers. If they don’t, their customers should ask them why they’re not in favor of clear, honest labeling.”

The goal of the code will be to ensure that the country of origin of the pork used in processed products will be clearly displayed on the pack. For example, the code says that terms such as ‘Produced in the U.K.’ can be ambiguous if origin is not qualified. Companies incorporating the new code have committed to providing clear information such as “Produced in the U.K. using pork from country x.”

Production definitions are being finalized and an announcement on how these could be incorporated into labeling is expected in the near future.

The code of practice also covers the use of single country-of-origin descriptions and where pork from a number of different countries may be used. The key elements of country of origin include:

 A commitment to clearly display the country of origin on retail packs;
 Where single country of origin is displayed, it means that the pig was born, reared and slaughtered in that country;
 The term “produced in the U.K.” will not be used without qualification of the origin of the pork;
 The use of national terms and symbols (such as flags) will mean that the pork comes from that country;
 Product-specific terms such as Wiltshire Cure will mean that the pork used to make the product comes from within the U.K. If not the origin will be clearly stated;
 Imagery that could imply U.K. origin will only be used on U.K. origin product, otherwise there will be a statement of origin on the pack;
 Food service outlets will make origin information readily available to customers such as on the menu, in literature or on company web sites; and 
 Where the term “local” is used it will be clearly defined.

Major companies already committed to the code include Asda, Baxter Storey, Marks and Spencer, Morrison’s, Sainsbury’s, Tesco, The Co-operative, Waitrose and Whitbread.

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