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France meat and dairy ‘country of origin labeling’ trial comes into force

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By Jenny Eagle+

Last updated on 02-Jan-2017 at 13:44 GMT2017-01-02T13:44:41Z

France rolls out COOL trial.
France rolls out COOL trial.

France rolls out its two-year trial for mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) for meat and dairy in prepared foods, this month.

The initiative concerns ready meals with a certain amount of meat or milk in them. 

100% French meat or French milk

If dishes contain more than 8% meat and 50% milk their origins must be mentioned on the label. 

Only meals with 100% French meat or French milk can contain the label “Produit d’origine Française”. 

Interbev, French trade association which represents meat processors and livestock, said it was pleased with the "significant advances made”, giving consumers ‘clear and transparent information’ on the products they buy. 

It has been campaigning for origin labeling on fresh and processed meat since the ‘Horsegate’ scandal of 2013 when DNA testing found horse meat in pre-prepared beef lasagne, sparking a crisis in consumer confidence. 

However, not everyone is happy with the decision on the trials; FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) said the pilot will have a negative effect on the supply chain because it only applies to France and ‘sets an irreversible precedent for the fragmentation of the EU Single Market for foods and drinks’. 

The European Dairy Association (EDA), also claims dairies in border regions will be hit as they may have up to five EU member states in their milk collection area.  

“The European Commission [has] clearly failed to protect the single market principle, which is from a political point of view a worst case scenario for the Union,” said Alexander Anton, secretary general, EDA. 

Responding to consumer demands

In its defense, Monique Goyens, director general, consumer rights organization BEUC, said the French decree is in line with the Food Information Regulation (FIC), as its main aim is to protect consumers and respond to their demand for information on the origin of their food. 

The Food Information to Consumers (FIC) legislation (1169/2011) says member states can introduce additional mandatory labeling if there is evidence a majority of consumers feel this information is important. 

According to a 2013 Eurobarometer survey, 90% of respondents agreed it is important for the origin of meat used in processed foods to be labeled, while 84% are in favor of mandatory origin labeling for milk in dairy products. 

Alain Bazot, president, French consumer rights group Que Choisir, says it has been campaigning for mandatory origin labeling for several years, along with the agricultural association FNSEA and others and launched an online petition last year calling for mandatory labeling for processed meat.

COOL is not the first F&B trial in France; last year it launched four pilot food labels across four 'guinea pig' regions including 60 Casino, Carrefour Market, and Simply Market stores in Île-de-France, Hauts-de-France, Rhône-Alpes and Haute Normandie. 

It saw more than 2million labels attached to nearly 1,200 food products as part of the test; the Nutri-Score system, which has a logo with five colors that ranks the food from A (good) to E (bad).

The Sens system, which uses a mixture of colors and a logo to indicate how often a certain food can be eaten healthily. 

The Nutri-Repère logo, which explains components such as fat, sugar, salt and shows how many calories it contains and a replica of the Traffic Lights system, used in the UK, similar to Nutri-Repère which breaks a product down into components, as well as indicating how much of the recommended daily amount the product contains. 

The European Commission will submit a report on the effects of “visual labeling” schemes to the Council and Parliament by December 2017, but no firm decision on their legality is expected before then. 

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