product-safetyYesterday, if you cared to celebrate it, was officially “European Consumer Day on product safety and market surveillance“. Hardly the kind of event that stops the traffic in Paris or Warsaw, but most people would agree that effective standards (whether government or industry set) are needed in any market. We can debate whether those standards need to be tougher or looser, but if consumers can’t trust the quality of the products they are buying then the market can’t function.

Market surveillance is then organised and carried out to ensure that products comply with these standards (in the EU, this is done by governments at the national level). Last month, the European Commission proposed new rules to improve market surveillance, including closer coordination of national regimes. The new proposals also include stricter rules on “country of origin” labelling, including the requirement that:

Manufacturers and importers shall ensure that products bear an indication of the country of origin of the product… For products manufactured in the Union, the indication shall refer to the Union or to a particular Member State.

The most recent high-profile failure of market surveillance in Europe, of course, was the horse meat scandal (which we posted about here). Though the new rules concern only non-food products, the Commission has indicated that it is considering extending the “country of origin” rules to also cover processed meat (fresh meat products, including pork, sheep, goat and poultry, are already required to display their country of origin).

When we discussed the horse-meat scandal recently, we had a comment sent in by David from the UK arguing that: “Every product [sold in the EU] should be labelled with its Country of origin.

Earlier this week, we had the opportunity to speak to Caroline Spelman, a British Conservative MP and former UK Secretary of State for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs. We asked Ms. Spelman how she would respond to David’s comment:


I would say to David that British Conservatives pushed very hard for country of origin labelling in the EU to include processed meat, including for animals brought in to be slaughtered in the UK. Accuracy in labelling is something we attach great importance to. Unfortunately, others voted against it and this requirement was left out [of the EU legislation that was agreed in 2011].

We also had comments that were critical of the idea of country of origin labelling, including one from Bogdan, who argued:

This debate can only lead to a witch hunt. It’s [subliminally] accusing the country of origin [of having], by default, unhealthy meat… What good would it do to know the country of origin? Does that mean any meat coming from Western Europe is, by default, clean and healthy?!

How would Caroline Spelman respond?

I don’t think this will result in a witch-hunt against any member state. The fraud we have seen exposed recently is widespread across Europe, and everyone involved in the food supply chain feels responsible for cleaning it up.

The issue of effective traceability is, of course, not just restricted to food products. A poll of 500 global company executives, conducted last week by the German testing and certification company TÜV SÜD, found that 56% of firms can’t trace all the components in their products through their supply chain, and 47% of firms couldn’t guarantee safety requirements for this reason.

What do YOU think? Do you trust EU product safety standards? Would clearer “country of origin” labelling help improve trust? Or would it lead to a witch-hunt against some countries? Let us know your thoughts and comments in the form below, and we’ll take them to policy-makers and experts for their reactions.

24 comments Post a commentcomment

  1. avatar
    Hex Austen

    To be honest, with countries’ economies failing miserably, I would have said that clear labelling on products would be very important – and that each country should serve its own interests before others.

  2. avatar
    Efrossiny Exarchoulakou

    after the scandal with the horse meat i believe that europe should take measures for the protection and safety of the people using the european products. most of all europeans first should trust european products and disseminate them to the rest of the world as the best quality products

  3. avatar
    Helder Oliveira

    All EU labels should refer themselves as EU and not the origin country, after all that’s where we’re walking to. It’s time to stop nationalisms and see ourselves as one, only this way we can have a strong voice out there

    • avatar

      Some time ago I could find “Made in EU” labels on packages in the shops here, usually with products of international companies like Kellogs or Nestle. In the meantime such labeling has more or less disappeared, because the EU as such has severely lost in reputation. After all the scandals people trust more in local and national products. It is perceived as more transparent and easier to control.

  4. avatar
    Albert Saxén

    I fail to see how , it wld improve it by being able to focus on the country in question.
    Helder, ya, but until we are.. the EU, which is meant to become a
    federal superstate, is currently a trading block, more of an economic
    union. Because it is ..

  5. avatar
    Pedro Celestino

    What we should is to stop letting company’s use slave countries to do products.

    I dont really think we should go with EU, first I dont really want a federation, second before that a lot of equalization would need to happen, and a lot of changes in the north europe too! Although It would not be very practical to say 30% from x, 25% from y … to even be able to label something like the “meat products” we have seen lately.

  6. avatar
    Helena Jeanne Tina Fornaro

    It’s EU made or not, all the rest would lead to tremendous problems in labeling for producers. Make it clearer though when a product is EU made, what percentage of total raw material & added value etc…

  7. avatar

    I very much agree with the country of origin principle. Those who oppose that would have every product labelled ‘from planet Earth’. And no that isn’t enough, it must be (at the very least) limited to country. The EU isn’t a country so products should be labelled ‘made in Romania’ or ‘made in Ireland’.

    The question is do I trust product safety standards, and the answer is I do not.

    The EU isn’t the only problem here, in fact it isn’t even the biggest problem here. The biggest problem is obviously greed. Companies looking to save a dime or two by cutting down on safety standards and checks, or on importing food components from China or wherever from.
    This is the main problem. Corporate greed and disregard for people (similar to that of the EU-banker alliance currently actively busy impoverishing many people).

  8. avatar
    eusebio manuel vestias pecurto

    A Europa tem de tomar decisões os produtos de origem e os rotulos idenficados como UE e não o pais hoje tivemos o escadalo da carne de cavalo e no futuro como será esta na hora de parar o nacionalismo e só assim se pode garantir a segurança alimentar dentro do espaço da UE

  9. avatar
    Christos Mouzeviris

    Well as it seems after so many scandals, I do not and we should not… So bring on the labeling, so we know what and where from… Not that I do mind if it is horse meat from Poland or Germany.. Rather that it can be traced down and know that it is safe…..

  10. avatar
    Bill Riedel

    On of the facinating things in a food safety discussion about food moving across borders is that every country seems to feel that their home-grown foods are “safe” in spite of recalls and imported foods are less so. Yet logic would dictate that this is impossible because one country’s home-grown safe foods then become the other country’s less safe food when imported????

  11. avatar
    Nikolaos Sotirelis

    Instead of making useless or harmless questions, it would be better to ask usefull and critical questions such as “should troyka clip the deposits in Cyprian Banks, specially those under 100.000 Euros”

  12. avatar
    Paul X

    There is no reason not to put the country of origin unless you are trying to hide something

    Myself and I believe a lot of my countrymen don’t care what the EU elite want to force down my throat, I prefer to purchase goods made in my own country.

    Company’s obviously know this because they often try market produce as British but when you read the small print it just says “Packaged In UK” This is a plain and simple deception, why would they do this if people didn’t mind where their produce came from? Whatever anyone says people DO care where the goods they buy come from and they are perfectly entitled to know

  13. avatar
    Vicente Silva Tavares

    Yes and no! EU demands some standards to European producers, but then allow imports of other countries without demanding the same standards. Who is controlling the meat imported from abroad? Are they bred with the same standards EU demands in Europe? Why EU demands the hen’s cases to be some sizes and allows to import eggs from abroad without caring how the hens there live? Why EU demands safety rules to European workers and then allow imports from India and Pakistan where children work and have no safety at all? Just read about the working conditions of the Chinese workers. How can the EU Commission to be so hypocrite?

  14. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    Made in Country Name Flag that is what`s needed , I have never yet entered a shop with a barcode reader…….i.e. if a buy Oranges they all have a label saying produce of Spain . The Avocados I bought today have Produce of Israel on them , a Bosch power tool would have Made in Germany on it……what on earth is wrong with this?….

  15. avatar
    David Fuzzey

    @ Helder All products should not have anything but the Country of Origen. And it is federaliosm that must be stopped.

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