The Minister for Health & Children has overall responsibility for the general food labelling legislation. Responsibility for the enforcement of this legislation rests with the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (F.S.A.I.). This is done through service contracts with other relevant agencies, including the Health Service Executive, the Local Authority Veterinary Service and my Department.
My Department had taken steps to try to introduce origin labelling for meats other than beef, which is already subject to specific legislation since September 2000. In conjunction with the Department of Health and Children my Department drafted regulations that would require the country of origin to be indicated on pigmeat, poultry and sheepmeat. This was notified to the EU Commission in December 2007 as required by legislation. The Commission was not prepared to adopt the draft regulations in their present format on the grounds that the proposed legislation is not in compliance with EU food labelling regulations. The Commission's main contention is that only harmonised rules with EU-wide applicability may be applied to food labelling other than in exceptional circumstances.
Under the general labelling Directive (2000/13/EC), the place of origin of the foodstuff must be given only if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degree. The European Commission is currently undertaking a major review of all food labelling legislation. In this context the Commission has prepared draft revised labelling regulations, which were discussed at Council Working Party level in Brussels on 8 December. The Department of Health and Children represented Ireland at these meetings and I understand that the next meeting is scheduled for 11th January 2010. Products carrying the Bord Bia quality assurance label provide consumers with assurance on product origin.