Government considers case for welfare standards on menus

The UK government is consulting on a new labelling scheme for animal welfare that could see caterers required to disclose welfare information on menus.

A call for evidence will consider how to define the welfare standards that would underpin a new labelling system and whether it should be mandatory or voluntary. It will also seek views on what a label might look like, what products would fall under its scope and how the scheme would be monitored and enforced.

Plans to reform labelling were set out in the Agriculture Act 2020. A 2018 government consultation found that 72% of people were in favour of the government setting further standards to ensure greater consistency and understanding of welfare information at the point of purchase.

One of the consultation questions considers how welfare standards could be communicated within the catering sector given the challenges in labelling prepared food and the relative lack of transparency in the sector compared with retail.

Options under consideration include mandatory labelling of the welfare standard at the point of sale, for example on the menu, and for welfare information to be made available either on request at the point of purchase or on a company website.

The results will be considered alongside a wider review of food labelling, including nutrition and eco-labelling, for the upcoming food strategy whitepaper.

“British farmers produce food to an exceptionally high standard of animal welfare, and consumers have come to expect nothing less,” said environment secretary George Eustice. “Now that we have left the EU, we have an opportunity to look at food labelling – and whether the information that we give to shoppers helps them make informed choices.”

It was also confirmed in the document that changes to the government buying standards for food and catering services will be consulted on early next year. The review had previously expected to take place this year.

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