I have received correspondence from a number of constituents about labelling food with details of the farming system used to produce it and Early Day Motion 1095.
I am a Parliamentary Private Secretary (PPS) and by convention, PPS's do not sign any Early Day Motions as doing so is likely to breach the Ministerial Code's rules on collective responsibility. However, I do appreciate the importance of this issue, especially given the £200 billion UK consumers spend each year on food, drink and catering services. Consumer confidence is more important in this industry than in any other, and is key to the integrity of the supply chain.
The current regulations on food labelling require that any information, including on packaging, advertising or other media, must not mislead consumers as to the characteristics of the food, including its method of manufacture or production. Other information that is required to be provided on pre-packed food includes the name and address of the producer and the country of origin for a number of types of food. There may be a case for looking at expanding the range of production method descriptions covered by such regulations in the future but this additional information must improve consumer understanding.
Leaving the EU creates opportunities to introduce clearer labelling but I do think it is important for there to be continuity at first, which is why the EU Withdrawal Bill will put all our existing regulations on food labelling and all other aspects on a legal footing in UK law. There will, however, then be opportunities to revisit them over time and I welcome the Environment Secretary's commitment to developing a new 'gold standard' food labelling system after we leave the European Union.
In the meantime there are some very good voluntary schemes that relate to methods of production, such as the RSPCA Assured scheme recognising high standards of animal welfare, British Lion eggs and the Red Tractor scheme. I know that my ministerial colleagues are keen to encourage those further.