Member of the EP Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety
It is scandalous that leading food manufacturers and retailers have been selling us food containing horsemeat without our knowledge. As the affected meat had travelled around various EU countries before reaching the UK, and sixteen different EU countries are now affected, making sure this never happens again is something that can only be done at European level.
The horsemeat, found in burgers, lasagnes and other processed foods without proper labelling, shows that there are serious problems with the traceability of food supply chains. An emergency debate on the issue in the European Parliament’s Environment and Food Safety committee has been scheduled on Monday, where we will be calling for comprehensive legislation on origin labelling for all meats, including those used in processed foods, and we want to see it enforced.
If legislation obliges companies to specify to their customers the origin of the meat they use, then the industry would have to keep a much tighter grip on their supply chain – and it would be much less likely that illegal meat of unknown origin gets on to our supermarket shelves.
On Wednesday EU ministers held crisis talks in Brussels, and Owen Paterson, Environment Secretary, is now saying that he wants country of origin labelling for meat in processed foods. However, when the European Parliament backed my comprehensive proposals for EU-wide legislation on country of origin labelling in 2011, the UK government opposed my plans in the Council of Ministers and forced us into a much weaker compromise. I insisted that the European Commission come forward with a report on meat in processed foods by the end of this year, and I hope Owen Paterson will stay true to his word and support MEPs in our on-going battle for honest food labelling for consumers.
It is interesting that Mr. Paterson, one of the most Eurosceptic of Ministers, is now advocating EU legislation as a solution to the current crisis. It is simply common sense that a problem in the meat supply chain, that has so far affected 16 EU members, needs EU-wide measures to combat it. But it is precisely this kind of EU regulation that Eurosceptics deem ‘red tape from Brussels’. In 2011 the UK government said my plans would be too difficult to put into practice because the meat supply chain was too complex. We have now seen what the complexities of the industry can hide.
Sadly, as is too often the case, it has taken a crisis for ministers across the EU to wake up to the fact that we must change the way the food industry works. While regulation can be challenging to get right, it is much more damaging to our food industry to have such a widespread loss of consumer trust in our products. When the European Commission comes forward with the report I asked for into meat in processed foods, MEPs and governments must work together to install a transparent system that shoppers can trust.
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About: European Movement UK
The origins of the European Movement
The origins of the European Movement lie in the aftermath of the Second World War. More than eight hundred delegates from across Europe gathered in The Hague in May 1948, under the chairmanship of Sir Winston Churchill, to create a new international movement to unite Europe and prevent further wars between its members. The British section of the European Movement was founded a year later.
In the 1950s and 1960s, the European Movement put forward the arguments for joining the European Economic Community, and it ran a major campaign in the early 1970s, both among the general public and in parliament, to win the battle for entry. In 1975, during the referendum on membership, the European Movement played a central role in the YES campaign. Other campaigns since then have included pressing for direct elections to the European Parliament in the 1970s and promoting the benefits of the single market in the run-up to 1992.
During the 1990s, the organisation became revitalised around the need to create a new national pro-European coalition. The rise in anti-European feeling threatens to undermine Britain's place in the European Union; our exclusion from the first wave of countries joining the euro is an example of how we lose out when the pro-European case is not put strongly enough in public.
Aims and activities
The European Movement is
- A rallying point: The European Movement rallies all those who believe that European unity is vital where the peoples of Europe have interests in common such as increased trade to improve economic prosperity, an improved environment to tackle climate change, and action to combat global poverty. A politically united Europe is needed to sweep aside the petty tribalism that has historically, at the very least, been an obstacle to progress or, at its worst, has led to bitter conflict and a catastrophic loss of human life. Europe must be united as a region of law, justice and democracy, equipped with the institutions capable of achieving these ends. Members receive a regular newsletter, euromove, with information and news about Pro-European developments. In addition, the office publishes updates on campaign ideas and issues an e-mail newsletter, e-News. Members take part in lively discussions in person and online, and the European Movement maintains an informative website.
- A campaign: The Movement has since its creation in 1948 sought to build and maintain public support for the unity of Europe. In the face of a backward-looking nationalist resurgence in some quarters, this role is as vital as ever. The campaigns include public information points, working with the media, and lobbying MPs and other decision-makers. In addition to the work of the London office, the branches and national councils organise campaign activities in their own areas, as well as political discussions and social events for members.
- A pressure group: The creation of the European Union has been an extraordinary achievement - democratic, sovereign states have created a common institutional framework in order to forge a future together based on the rule of law. But the European Movement is not the Union's information service or an apologist for its weaknesses. It must work to win support for the reforms necessary to improve its ability to meet the hopes and aspirations of its peoples.