Incoming EU food safety commissioner wants deal over meat labelling

By Carmen Paun, in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

The European Commission should review the issue of country-of-origin labelling (COOL), said Vytenis Andriukaitis
The European Commission should review the issue of country-of-origin labelling (COOL), said Vytenis Andriukaitis

Related tags: European parliament, European union

The European Commission should review the issue of country-of-origin labelling (COOL) for meat in processed food and assess who would pay for such a measure, the health and food safety commissioner-designate Vytenis Andriukaitis said today.

Speaking during his confirmation hearing at the European Parliament, in Brussels, Andriukaitis said that he has conferred with specialists and read reports suggesting consumers really want to know the country of origin of meat present in processed food. The issue came to the spotlight last year, during the horsemeat scandal – but MEPs and EU ministers have disagreed on how much information should be included on labelling, with the parliament wanting more, and the council of ministers less. “We have to come back to this issue and see who will pay and how to cover the costs,”​ he said in response to British Labour member of the European Parliament (MEP) Glenis Willmott, who has drafted motions on the issue.

In written answers sent to the parliament prior to the hearing, Andriukaitis – a former Lithuanian health minister - said the fight against food fraud was an important priority to him. In addition to the EU’s new Food Fraud Network of national contacts points gathering information about scams, he supported developing a dedicated IT tool for regulators, proposals for tougher financial penalties for such frauds, more training for food inspectors, police and Customs officers and the development of future EU-wide food fraud controls.

Questioned by MEPs about cloning animals for meat purposes, the commissioner-designate said the issue was very complex ethically and biologically, but he promised to mediate between the parliament and the EU member states so agreement could be reached on EU animal cloning legislation.

In his written response to the parliament, he also committed to bring “to a successful conclusion”​ all legislative food-related proposals currently under discussion with the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers. “These include the proposals on animal health, plant health, official controls, novel food, cloning, zootechnics and medicated feed,”​ Andriukaitis wrote.

Regarding antimicrobial resistance caused by excessive antibiotics use in animals, he said: “All the measures in this area have to be assessed.”​ As a former doctor, Andriukaitis said he knew this issue well.

The topic of animal welfare was a sensitive one for him, he said, but the commissioner-designate stopped short from giving any information on his vision and plans regarding legislation: “I won’t give easy promises of what can be done.”​ Instead, he said that the import of animals, meat and other foodstuffs from outside the EU should be stopped if it involved the risk of spreading infectious diseases.

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