Nick Herbert: buy British if you want to avoid dodgy meat

Afew years ago I launched a campaign called ‘Honest Food’. Its premise was simple – we ought to know where food comes from. ‘Country of origin’ labelling would help consumers to make informed choices about the food they are buying.

Meat labelled as ‘British’ should be born and bred in Britain, and raised to our high welfare standards. At the time, we identified how some food retailers weren’t following this practice, making it impossible to know whether a sausage contained pork from Britain, another European country or even further afield.

Today, the problem isn’t just that labels aren’t informative. We now know that they might be seriously misleading. Horsemeat has been found in a wide range of processed foods – often not just in traces.

This hasn’t been so much an issue of food safety as one of trust. Most of us, being English, don’t want to eat horses anyway, but we certainly don’t want to be misled.

The Government says that “clearer origin labelling is a key commitment”, which is good, but the problem has been the European Commission, which has never liked the idea of country labelling.

Apparently, we’re waiting for them to produce a report. Well, it’s time they got on with it.

In the meantime, there’s a simple solution for those who want to avoid the risk of eating dodgy meat – one rightly advocated by the President of the National Farmers’ Union this week.

Buy British beef, pork, lamb and chicken. Buy meat marked with the red tractor label (www.redtractor.org.uk), which is guaranteed for quality and origin.

Or if possible, buy locally from your butcher, farm shop or farmers’ market. You’ll find that the quality is better, prices are competitive, you’ll be supporting local farmers and the countryside, and above all you’ll know where your meat comes from.

If you would like to get in touch with me, please write to me at the House of Commons, London, SW1A 0AA, or email me at nick@nickherbert.com.