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Consumer Research on Labelling of Meats Published (Press Release)

A Consumer Survey organised by the Department of Agriculture and Food's Consumer Liaison Panel published today reveals that most consumers want specific country of origin information in relation to all meat sales.The survey of 802 consumers was carried out by Research Solutions for the Department of Agriculture and Food's Consumer Liaison Panel. This survey was undertaken because of the difficulty in obtaining agreement on how origin should be defined in the comprehensive examination last December of food labelling issues.(1)The main findings of the survey revealed that:

Nine out of 10 grocery shoppers claim to be confident that meat bought in supermarkets/butchers is safe but also assume that the meat they buy is of Irish origin.The key criteria used to judge the quality and safety of meat include where the meat was bought, colour/appearance, best before date and price followed by quality assurance label and country of origin (ranked 6th in order of priority). Two thirds of grocery shoppers claimed country of origin information was very helpful in assessing the safety of meat.(1) Report of the Food Labelling Group available on Department's website

There was a clear preference (69%) for specific country of origin information on meat sold in retailers/butchers rather than EU/non EU denomination (6%).Awareness of EU beef labelling legislation was low. The general public do not differentiate regarding the level of information on beef labels compared to labels for other categories of pre-packed meat.There was also a clear preference (68%) for specific country of origin on menus in Food Service restaurants. However, the vast majority (80%) of consumers rarely/never enquire about the origin of meat when eating out.

The Minister for Agriculture and Food, Joe Walsh, to whom the research findings were presented today, said the EU beef labelling regulations are being reviewed by the Commission and the findings were accordingly very timely. The Minister undertook to forward the information, which covered in a comprehensive manner consumer attitudes to meat purchasing, to the European Commission. He said he had already raised with the Commission the question of extending the beef labelling regulations to the food service sector.In addition, on foot of recommendations by the Food Labelling Group, he had arranged for the centralisation of enforcement of food labelling regulations in the Food Safety Authority. The Minister said that consumers were entitled to clear accurate information and he would continue to give attention to the area of food labelling to ensure that this was achieved.

Full details of the Consumer Research are available on the Department's website at www.agriculture.gov.ie

8 December 2003