HC Deb 02 July 1992 vol 210 cc957-8
12. Mr. Devlin

To ask the Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food what plans he has to improve the labelling of food.

Mr. Soames

There are proposals for food labelling before the Council of Ministers, covering a variety of matters. We expect further proposals from the Commission on statements claiming that food stuffs have particular properties. I expect to announce shortly my decisions on the recommendations of the Food Advisory Committee's review of food labelling in the United Kingdom—[Interruption.]

Madam Speaker

Order. Would the House calm down so that we can get on with our proceedings.

Mr. Devlin

May I thank my hon. Friend for that reply, especially after the removal of the hon. Member for Bolsover (Mr. Skinner). Surely my hon. Friend would agree that it is of the utmost importance to the consumer that food is always kept in its best possible condition. Therefore, it should always be clearly marked with the date on which its shelf life expires and the date on which it should cease being used by the housewife. That is the best protection to ensure that the fine food produced by our farmers is delivered in the same quality to housewives in their homes.

Mr. Soames

My hon. Friend is absolutely right. The Government are committed to going further down the road of ensuring the provision of more informative labelling. Most pre-packed foods are now marked with the "best before" date. It is our intention to keep this matter under review. There are, of course, microbiologically highly perishable foods which are likely, after a short period, to pose immediate danger to human health. These foods must carry a "use by" date.

Mr. Alex Carlile

Does the Minister agree that if the food labelling regulations required disclosure that the animal had been killed in a small butcher-owned abattoir, that would be likely to increase the sales of the meat? Will he look once again at the pettifogging requirements which are putting small butcher-owned abattoirs here out of business while other countries, such as Greece, are not adopting the same standards?

Mr. Soames

The hon. and learned Gentleman is quite right. This is a matter of great concern to the Government. We have secured a derogation on smaller units and we intend to see a level playing field throughout the European Community in this as in all other matters of European legislation.