Co-op flouts EC rules with labels drive

Meat products could be the next target of the Co-op’s accurate food-labelling drive, which includes labelling eggs “intensively produced” in defiance of the European Commission’s rules.

The Co-op’s relabelled eggs tell consumers the “harsh truth” about production methods, says the retailer, in pursuance of its Right to Know policy. This was launched after it commissioned a report which indicated its customers wanted to know more about food production. The labelling is decided in consultation with the RSPCA and the cartons carry the slogan “Freedom Food RSPCA monitored”.

The description “intensively produced” is, however, illegal under EC rules, which permit only the labels “barn” or “free range” to be used about eggs.

“It is technically illegal, but we think it is in consumers’ interests,” says a Co-op spokesman. The company thinks it unlikely it will be prosecuted by trading standards authorities.

The company chose the term “intensively produced” because it can apply to products other than eggs. It uses the term “battery cage” inside the egg carton.

“Meat may well be the next product area for this approach. Where we have a product boasting of an animal welfare benefit, we feel it right to label the product alongside if there is no animal welfare benefit.” About 68 per cent of the Co-op’s egg sales are of intensively produced eggs; 24 per cent are free range and seven per cent are barn.

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