HL Deb 11 July 1990 vol 521 cc271-2

2.43 p.m.

Lord Moran asked Her Majesty's Government:

How soon they expect to have in force regulations requiring manufacturers of animal feed and pet food to show on every bag or container the exact composition of the feeds contained in them.

The Minister of State, Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Food (Baroness Trumpington)

My Lords, pet food labels already have to give details of contents. A similar requirement for animal feeds is contained in the recently agreed EC Directive 90/44 which has to be implemented on 22nd January 1992. My right honourable friend the Minister has personally urged the Agricultural Commissioner to complete the necessary background work for the harmonised animal feed label as soon as possible.

Lord Moran

My Lords, I am most grateful to the Minister for that reply. Can she confirm that the National Farmers Union has been pressing for over 10 years for the manufacturers of compound feeds for livestock to be obliged to show the specific ingredients on the bag? Does she agree that it is unfortunate that we have taken no action during that period and that we now have to wait a further 18 months for the Community to take action before the directive is brought into force?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I am aware of the National Farmers Union's recent interest in the matter.

With regard to the other part of the noble Lord's question, it is one of the EC rules which is to be implemented on a certain date, not by it. If we can agree the technical rules, there is nothing to stop manufacturers complying with the directive before 1992, and we shall encourage them to do so.

Lord Gallacher

My Lords, perhaps the noble Baroness will understand that we regard 1992 as a very long lead time in this important area. Can she tell the House what arrangements are currently in force to inspect the contents of imports of animal feedstuffs, including bulk imports, for processing and/or packing with a view to their use in Britain?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, at the moment feed compounders have to give specified nutritional information such as the protein, oil, fibre and ash content of mixed feeds. They may also give information as to the specific contents of their feeds. They may not include harmful ingredients. Pet food manufacturers are required to give the contents of their feed either by specific ingredients or by categories of similar ingredients.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, the noble Baroness said that the Government would encourage detailed labelling. First, can she explain to the House precisely what that means? How is it to be encouraged, and what will the Government do? Secondly, can she say whether any animal feed now sold in the United Kingdom contains the brains of cows, or does any imported feed contain the brains of cows or of any other animal?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, in order to reply to the noble Lord's first supplementary question, we have first to decide the categories by which manufacturers may declare the materials used in their feed. Those categories must be in place by 22nd January 1991. We must also make sure that manufacturers are using common terminology and descriptions. From experience we know that that will entail a good deal of discussion in Brussels. In 12 different countries there are hundreds of raw materials used in the production of feed for animals. We are pressing in Brussels for a distinction between animal protein coming from ruminants and from other sources. However, negotiations are still under way.

I shall have to write to the noble Lord with regard to imports of feed.

Lord Cledwyn of Penrhos

My Lords, is the noble Baroness able to tell us whether animal feed does or does not contain the brains of cows? That is material to the current discussions.

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, since July 1988 any material from ruminants has been banned from inclusion in animal feed. The pet food situation is different: a voluntary ban has been operated.

Lord Mackie of Benshie

My Lords, can the Minister say what is being done with the very large surplus of offal that is being built up throughout the country in slaughterhouses? Have the Government plans for the disposal of the surplus?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, I shall be delighted to answer that question on another occasion. I do not think that it has anything to do with labelling.

Lord Glenamara

My Lords, does the Minister's second reply to my noble friend the Leader of the Opposition mean that the brains of cows are still appearing in pet food?

Baroness Trumpington

My Lords, at a recent meeting with the Pet Food Manufacturers' Association (PFMA) it was recommended that knacker and stained material, precious species such as whales and seals and high risk material should not be used. The voluntary ban has been extended to cover the full list of proscribed offals, which includes brains.