FOOD producers, in the form of the Country Land and Business Association, are calling for restaurants and caterers to state the country of origin of food on the menu.
The organisation believes that having some record of a product’s source will give consumers more confidence and encourage more local buying.
What a nice sentiment. Maybe all our restaurants and cafes will proudly source wonderful local ingredients, removing the need for environmentally damaging long journey times and instilling a sense of pride into regional farming practices.
Perhaps our neighbourhoods will become the ambassadors of local culinary traditions and we will all start enjoying three course lunches, unpasteurised cheeses, strange looking sausages and many of the other practices we sneakily admire from our Gallic neighbours.
While it’s easy to accept that some of the fantastic venues across our region would readily accept the challenge as a marketing opportunity, after all, many top restaurants already do give this type of information on the menu, what of the rest?
The initiative – which the CLA wants to start by introducing on beef – has a fatal flaw as far as I can see – who would make those who don’t willingly take part, comply?
If the initiative ever did become enshrined in law, how does the CLA imagine that hard-pressed Trading Standard’s offices up and down the country would actually police it?
If your local chippy claims the meat in your pie is British, who is going to investigate to discover otherwise?
Likewise, those cafes and smaller venues whose profit margins depend on buying in cheap to turn a profit – are they really going to admit the chicken comes from Thailand or the sausages from Holland?
Apparently the idea has already got short shrift from the British Hospitality Association which doesn’t see much customer demand for the labelling.
And while anything that improves the quality and accountability of the food we eat is to be encouraged, this scheme sounds too easily abused to become a confidence boost.
What do you think? Necessary or impractical? Let me know below.
* Current food labelling laws on Country of Origin.
* Ongoing debate on this issue at BBC’s Farming Today.
* Food labelling Q&A from Food Standards Agency.