Voluntary Beef Labelling Scheme
In general, all fresh, frozen or minced beef marketed in the EU (with the exception of offal) is subject to a mandatory system of origin traceability and origin labelling. The purpose of these rules is to ensure that beef on sale can be traced back to the animal or group of animals from which it came. The beef labelling regime, which applies to all parts of the supply chain, has two distinct but complementary elements:
(i) The compulsory system which requires food business operators to label their beef products (unless cooked or processed) with certain prescribed information up to and including the point of sale to the consumer. For further details on the regulations governing the compulsory labelling system, consult the guidance material on the FSAI website.
(ii) The voluntary system covers any other labelling claim that processors or retailers wish to make concerning the origin, characteristics or production methods of the beef they are supplying. The claims made on product labels, marketing material or point of sale notices must be clear and cannot be misleading. Such claims must be approved by this Department before use. You can apply for approval using the form and explanatory notes here:
Main features of the Voluntary Labelling Scheme
Every food business operator is legally obliged to submit a specification detailing the product claims that they wish to have approved. Businesses must be able to prove that these claims are true. To do so, applicants must engage at their own expense an independent control body (approved by the Department and accredited to European Standard EN/45011) to audit their claims. Applications cover a broad spectrum of labelling and marketing indications. The following non-exhaustive list is typical of the type of claims that need approval: breed or cross breed, age or gender of animal, manner of production (e.g. farm assured, quality assured, grass-fed), age at or date of slaughter, period of maturation etc. If are unsure whether the information you wish to use requires approval, please contact the Beef Policy Section of the Department (see below for details).
Once approved, businesses can use these voluntary claims on their product labels. A business whose labelling specification is approved by the Department is issued with a certificate which is valid only for the claim to which it refers. Any change to the approved labelling information therefore requires a new certificate.
Businesses seeking approval under the voluntary labelling system should also be aware that they must submit to an annual audit by their nominated control body to verify the accuracy of their control systems and labelling information. There are, at present, several control bodies recognised by the Department and the cost of their inspections must be borne by the food business operator making the application.
You can access a Guide to the Beef Labelling Regulations & a document on FAQs by clicking on the links below.
Ms Breda Reilly
Beef Policy Section
Meat and Milk Policy Division
Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food
Tel: (01) 607 2519