EC rules on beef labelling

British Food Journal

ISSN: 0007-070X

Article publication date: 1 February 2000



Jukes, D. (2000), "EC rules on beef labelling", British Food Journal, Vol. 102 No. 1.



Emerald Group Publishing Limited

Copyright © 2000, MCB UP Limited

EC rules on beef labelling

EC rules on beef labelling

MAFF had previously written on 23 February 1999 seeking comments on the Beef Labelling Scheme in order to prepare the UK report to the European Commission. The Commission has now submitted its report, based on the returns from each member state, to the Council. On the basis of its findings the Commission has produced proposals for the system beyond 1999. It is on these proposals, summarised below, that MAFF are now consulting industry organisations and other interested parties to seek comments on the future of the beef labelling system.

The Commission have first proposed that the current voluntary arrangements are extended to continue for a further year until 31 December 2000. The delay to the start of the anticipated compulsory system and its staging has been justified by the difficulties most member states have encountered in fully implementing the required cattle identification system.

The second proposal is for a staged introduction of a compulsory system with a parallel voluntary system.

The first stage of the proposed compulsory system would require, from 1 January 2001 onwards, the compulsory labelling by all operators and organisations marketing fresh or frozen beef or veal with the following:

  • individual traceability codes which may be the identification number of the animal from which meat is derived or an identification number relating to a group of such animals;

  • region or member state or third country of the slaughterhouse and de-boning plant;

  • approval number of the slaughterhouse and de-boning plant;

  • date of slaughter;

  • category of animal (to be defined by Commission Regulation, but is expected to mean steer, heifer, young bull, cow, bull); and

  • ideal minimum maturation period.

The proposed second stage, to take effect from 1 January 2003, would introduce compulsory indication on the label of:

  • member state, or region or holding or third country of birth;

  • member state, or region or holding or third country of fattening;

  • member state, or region or holding or third country of slaughter; and

  • member state, or region or holding or third country of de-boning.

The proposal would also allow some wider geographical definitions to be used, e.g. where all of the above take place in:

  • one or more member state(s) an indication of "origin: EC"

  • a third country and the EC an indication of "origin: EC and non-EC"; or

  • one or more third countries an indication of "origin: non-EC".

Unlike the existing voluntary scheme, the proposed compulsory scheme does not appear to involve prior approval by MAFF or independent third-party verification. We assume, however, that operators will need to be able to show that they have maintained a proper audit trail to substantiate the information provided.

Other labelling information on characteristics and production methods, such as breed, organic, farm assured and slaughter method, would remain subject to a voluntary scheme. The proposed voluntary scheme looks likely to be more or less in line with current arrangements save that the requirement to obtain prior approval of labelling claims from MAFF would be relaxed to a simpler system requiring only that prior notification be given. It appears that the verification requirements for voluntary claims from 2001 will continue.

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