Many people will recognise the feeling of going to the supermarket, picking up a pint of milk only to be met with a host of on-package labels. Most citizens have no idea what they all mean or, more importantly, how they relate to each other. Is ‘Non-GMO’ better than ‘Organic’? Does ‘Fairtrade’ mean more than humanely-raised? It’s confusing.
Increasingly, the public want to make good decisions about the food that they purchase because they care about its environmental impact and animal welfare. Some 75% of UK consumers want supermarkets to only supply sustainably and ethically sourced products, and these consumers have repeatedly expressed a desire for more transparency over how their meat has been produced, to ensure that it has been raised humanely.
This is the problem that Consortium of Labelling for the Environment, Animal Welfare and Regenerative Farming (CLEAR) aims to address. CLEAR, of which the SFT is a founding member organisation, has just launched its Manifesto for Mandatory Method of Production Labelling. This manifesto outlines a shared vision for the need for transparent and verifiable mandatory method of production labelling for food products sold in the UK and is asking the Government to deliver substantive improvements to current food labelling arrangements.
CLEAR and its supporting organisations believe that clear food labels that identify method of production will deliver greater transparency in our food system and help consumers understand how their food is produced. It will also deliver against the Government’s promise in the 25 Year Environment Plan to ‘become the first generation to leave the environment in a better state than we found it and pass on to the next generation a natural environment protected and enhanced for the future’.
With that in mind, CLEAR has set out their ambitions and objectives for the new labelling system and wants to see:
- mandatory method of production labelling with adequate enforcement mechanisms for all foods, including imports
- independent assessment requiring verifiable benchmarking against key metrics
- clear accessible presentation (i.e. on packaging)
However, due to our exit from the EU, the food and farming sector is in flux. Each nation within the UK is in the process of designing their new agricultural support scheme, and consequently, there is still a high level of uncertainty. Additionally, international trade relationships are still being agreed. CLEAR recognises that because of the complexity within the sector currently, and the ambition of the proposal, it will take time to implement it. And if we’re going to do it, we should take the time to do it right.
However, the following steps can be taken immediately to ensure there is a clear regulatory framework to support the full implementation of mandatory labelling which will take place over a longer period. This would include:
- mandatory animal welfare labelling for poultry and pork, focused on method of production
- an extension of country of origin labelling requirements
- establishing a regulatory basis for the use of specific sustainability terms
- and the capacity for enforcement
You can read the full manifesto here. CLEAR will be advocating this approach to Government and across Westminster with the SFT supporting the effort through their Global Farm Metric work. The SFT, along with the other CLEAR partners, would urge you to sign the petition and raise your voice and sign CLEAR’s petition to Government for mandatory and clear method-of-production food labelling.
We will continue to keep you updated on CLEAR’s progress. To join CLEAR and add your organisation’s name to the Manifesto, please contact Fidelity Weston at the Pasture For Life Association who is the Chair of CLEAR.