UK-wide initiative could boost Scots farming industry, says Claire Smith
MOVES to encourage restaurants to include the country of origin labels on menus have been welcomed by Scottish farmers and restaurateurs, who say it will help promote the use of locally produced products.
UK food and farming minister Jim Paice is to write to the British Hospitality Association this week to ask members to consider introducing voluntary labelling on restaurant menus which will allow diners to see where their food has come from.
The UK initiative could help boost the Scottish food and drink industry, which is already growing due to an increased demand for locally sourced goods.
Paice said: “More than ever, people want to know where their food comes from, so it’s disappointing to see little improvement in the number of food products showing this information.
“Origin labelling helps people make informed choices and gives assurances on quality, production methods and environmental impact. Whether it is on a label, menu or given verbally, I want to see all of industry making every effort to provide this information that the consumer has made it clear they want.”
Research carried out by the Food Standards Agency shows growing numbers of people want country of origin labelling.
Suzanne O’Connor, head chef at The Scottish Cafe in the Scottish National Gallery in Edinburgh, says using as many locally sourced products as possible is popular with customers.
“On the back of our menu we have a map of Scotland showing where all our food comes from, and our customers love it.
“We have 62 Scottish suppliers in total and it is part of my remit to find a new Scottish product every month. Sometimes we find it hard to source fruit and vegetables – especially with the weather we’ve been having – but we do our best.”
A spokesman for the National Farmers Union in Scotland said: “I think the feedback from consumers is there is a far greater interest in the provenance of food than ever before.
“There is a lot of work going on both at a European and a Scottish level on country of origin labelling.”
He said that lack of labelling created confusion for consumers – with some assuming that Aberdeen Angus beef was a Scottish product rather than a breed of cow widely reared in and exported from South America.
However, he said: “If this was only going to be a voluntary code we would have questions about how it was going to be enforced.”
A Scottish Government spokesman said a lot of work had already been done north of the Border, including an online guide explaining to business owners how they could improve their country of origin labelling: “Scotland is home to some of the world’s finest produce and our food and drink sector is one of our greatest success stories. The Scottish Government believe it is important that consumers should be given the information they need to make informed choices when dining out. We have already taken action on this with the launch of The Provenance on a Plate website.
“This origin and labelling toolkit helps hotels, restaurants, pubs and cafés source local food and makes it easier to tell consumers about the origin of the food they sell.”
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