I propose to take Questions Nos. 187, 188 and 190 together.
As the Deputy will be aware the Minister for Health has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation and the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has overall responsibility for enforcement of food labelling regulations. In this context the new EU food information regulations Food Information for the Consumer (FIC) Regulation (1169/2011EC) were adopted by the Council of Health Ministers in December 2011. The Principle of the Food Labelling Directive is that the consumer shall rightly expect not to be misled by inaccurate labelling and must have confidence in knowing what they are eating. The FIC extend explicit compulsory origin labelling requirements to meats other than beef, with the detailed rules to be adopted in implementing acts by 13 December 2013, following an impact assessment by the Commission.
The FIC regulation also adopts rules on compulsory labelling where the origin or place of provenance of a food is given and where it is not the same as its primary ingredient. Insofar as meat as an ingredient is concerned, these rules are subject to the adoption of implementing acts, which must take account of an impact assessment to be carried out by the Commission. As a result of the recent incidents of horsemeat being discovered in beef burgers and other beef products the Commission have now agreed to bring forward their work on this aspect of the regulation to September this year.
General Beef labelling Rules
Country of origin labelling was initially implemented in respect of beef and certain beef products. In general, all fresh, frozen or minced beef marketed in the EU (with the exception of offal) is subject to a mandatory system of origin traceability and origin labelling. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that beef on sale can be traced back to the animal or group of animals from which it came.
There are two elements to the beef labelling regime which apply to all parts of the supply chain: the compulsory system, which requires food business operators to label their beef products (unless cooked or processed) with certain prescribed information up to and including the point of sale to the consumer; and the voluntary system, which covers any other labelling claim that processors or retailers wish to make concerning the origin, characteristics or production methods of the beef they are supplying. The claims made on product labels, marketing material or point of sale notices must be clear and cannot be misleading.
Also in the FIC regulation (Annex VI) in the case of meat products, meat preparations which may give the impression that they are made of a whole piece of meat, but actually consist of different pieces combined together by other ingredients, including food additives and food enzymes or by other means, shall bear the words “formed meat” on the label.