Origin of meat, from April 1 in labeling. And yet something is missing


On April 1, 2015, EU Regulation 1337/2013, on the origin of meat, comes into effect. It is the first of thirty-five implementing acts under the so-called ‘Food Information Regulation. As of today, most meats must indicate their origin on the label. Let’s see what this is all about.

To which meats the new label applies

Origin is mandatory for meat of the pig, sheep, goat and poultry species. Missing from the roll call, perhaps due to the forgetfulness of the European legislature, are horse meat, rabbit meat and hare meat. Beef, in turn, has been subject to mandatory indication of origin-with specification of countries of birth, rearing and slaughter-since as far back as 2000, in the aftermath of the pan-European bovine spongiform encephalopathy (BSE, also known as ‘mad cow disease’ Reg. EC 1760, 1825/2000) scandal.

Meats subject to the new requirement are only those sold as such-whether fresh, frozen or deep-frozen-if pure cut or minced. On the other hand, meat preparations are excluded, which may themselves contain fresh meat but with other ingredients added (e.g., flavorings and spices, breadcrumbs, cheese or cured meats). Also excluded are processed meats, such as bresaola, various hams and cold cuts, cotechini and zamponi, etc.

From ‘Raised in…’ to ‘Origin Italy’

The label must bear the two words ‘Raised in … (name of member state or third country)’ and ‘Slaughtered in … (name of the member state or third country)’. Instead, it is possible to insert the term ‘Origin … (Member State or third country)’ in the only case where the animal is born, raised and slaughtered in a single national territory. In practice, only when we read ‘Origine Italia’ on the label will we be certain that these are Italian animals, raised and slaughtered in our country.

‘Raised in …’, how and when? On the countries of birth and slaughter there is no doubt, such are and remain. As for the breeding stage, on the other hand, the legislature has defined the following ‘nationality attribution’ criteria:

– pigs are considered to have been raised in a particular country when they have spent the last four months of their lives there (if slaughtered over six months of age), or have attained a certain development there (from 30kg upwards, for animals killed before six months of age with a weight over 80kg), or even the entire herd (for pigs slaughtered within six months of age and 80kg of weight),

– sheep and goats are considered to have been raised in a particular country when they have spent the last six months of their lives there (or their entire lives, if taken to slaughter before the age of six months),

– poultry is understood to be reared in the country where it spent the last month (if reared for more than one month), or at least where it was fattened (if slaughtered before one month of age).

One clarification is missing

However, one key step remains to be clarified, namely the application of the new rules to meat sold in bulk and prewrapped. EC Regulation 1760/2000, in introducing compulsory origin on beef, had clarified that the information should also be provided at the place of sale, for meat sold in bulk, or on the label, on prewrapped meat for the purpose of direct sale. But EU Regulation 1337/2013 is not as clear. Therefore, clarification from the relevant ministries (Economic Development, Agriculture, Health) is useful for the best protection of Italian consumers. Who, moreover, let us remember, are still waiting for the fateful ‘sanctions decree’.

(Dario Dongo)