LONDON – Most UK meat and dairy products now feature information on where their ingredients came from or where they were produced, according to research announced by Food Minister Jim Paice on May 26. The survey looked at labels on more than 500 meat and dairy products purchased from the major retailers and a number of independent shops.

This marks the first evaluation of Country-of-Origin Labeling (COOL) since the food industry put in place voluntary standards to provide clearer country of origin information to consumers last November.

For British bacon, sausages and other slightly processed meat products, 82 percent had some form of COOL, with 67 percent providing information on the origin of the meat ingredient, and 15 percent only listing where the product was manufactured. Approximately one in five didn’t include any origin statement. More complicated meat products, such as pies and ready meals, showed that 76 percent included some form of COOL statement.

The food industry expects to see further improvements in meeting the voluntary principles as stocks of old packaging and labeling, manufactured before November, are used.

“Honest food labeling is a priority for me,” Paice said. “Consumers want to see clear, honest labels that allow them to make a choice about the standards and origin of their food. They are entitled to believe that if a label says or implies that a product is British, it is British.

“The food industry has already taken the initiative on this, but today’s results show there’s still room for improvement,” he added. “People are increasingly eating out so we’ll work with the catering sector to make sure they get the right information as well.”

Clearer origin labeling is a key commitment for the government, Paice said. The voluntary code agreed in November 2010 will reduce confusion in the origin of products and make the British consumer the best informed in Europe.