The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for enforcement of labelling legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) through its service contracts with my Department, the Sea Fisheries Protection Authority, the Health Services Executive, the Local Authorities and the National Consumer Agency. Breaches of food labelling legislation should be reported to the FSAI.
As regards meat and meat products, EU beef labelling legislation requiring country of origin labelling of beef has been in place since September 2000. As this legislation did not cover beef sold by the catering trade I collaborated with the Minister for Health & Children to have national legislation enacted to require that all beef sold or served in the retail or catering sector is now required to carry an indication of the country of origin. This legislation is also enforced by the FSAI. In relation to poultry meat, there are EU Regulations which provide for the labelling of unprocessed poultry meat, at retail level. The Regulations require such poultry meat, to be labelled with the information regarding class, price, condition, registered number of slaughterhouse or cutting plant and, where imported from a Third Country, an indication of country of origin.
Draft regulations requiring the country of origin to be shown on poultry meat, pig meat and sheep meat sold in the retail and catering sectors were prepared by my Department and are currently being finalized by the Department of Health & Children. A public consultation process was conducted by the FSAI and the draft regulations have been submitted to the European Commission for approval.
There is also the issue where a primary product can enter Ireland and processed in some way thereby allowing it to be branded as an Irish product is known as "substantial transformation". This terminology originates in WTO, Codex and EU legislation governing the EU Customs Code and therefore can only be amended at EU level. I have been concerned that this arrangement could, in certain circumstances, be used to mislead the consumers as to the origin of the raw materials used in certain products. I am not satisfied with the current legal position and have raised my concerns at EU Council level. The EU Commission is currently reviewing the whole area of food labelling and recently presented proposed legislation on the provision of food information to consumers.