RSPCA cautiously welcomes food labelling consultation
The RSPCA has cautiously welcomed news that the government is to fast track a consultation on 'method of production' labelling on food, warning that it should not be used to justify food imports produced to lower standards of animal welfare.
RSPCA head of public affairs David Bowles said: “The government’s long-awaited move to introduce ‘method of production’ labelling is very welcome, though must not be used as justification to allow import of lower welfare imports that would be illegal if produced in the UK.
He added: “We know from shell eggs that mandatory labelling works. But it’s a backstop and the Government needs to ensure its stated commitment not to negotiate away our higher animal welfare is put into legislation.”
Currently, producers are not legally required to provide consumers with information about the method of production at the point of sale. Many products are marketed with images of rolling fields, happy animals or fictional farm names regardless of where those animals are reared.
The RSPCA has long championed mandatory 'method of production' labelling, to help consumers understand how those farm animals were raised. In turn, this would give farmers more incentive to produce to higher welfare standards, but it would not prevent the import of goods produced to lower welfare standards coming into the UK.
Mr Bowles continued: “The UK currently bans products such as chlorinated chicken, hormone-treated beef or cruel farming practices like the conventional battery cage for egg production or pig sow stalls. Unless we uphold these standards, we face a race to the bottom, where price, not quality, influences what ends up on our supermarket shelves.
“There are big opportunities to highlight on products how animals are produced, particularly for chickens, pigs and even salmon. But while ‘method of production’ labelling is a significant step in the right direction, ensuring animal products that are imported to the UK meet our higher welfare standards must be a priority to protect the integrity of UK food and the commercial viability of UK farming.”