Today (29th July 2014) the FSA published the results of its assessment of Country of Origin Labelling (COOL) using SIRA techniques. This was a small study which assessed whether 6 foods (beef, pork, lamb, apple juice, tomatoes and honey), were of UK or Irish origin as claimed on the pack. The study allowed the FSA to gain experience in the use of SIRA as a potential tool to combat food mis-description. SIRA stands for Stable Isotope Reference Analysis. The technology is based on the fact that chemical elements can exist in different forms (isotopes) and different geographic regions have different ratios of these isotopes.
In reaction, NFU Scotland’s Food Chain Relationships Policy Manager Kylie Barclay said:
“It is very positive that this survey did not identify any cases of food on sale with misleading origin claims. SIRA is an exciting technology which can help to verify country of origin labelling (COOL) and this study is a useful indicator of the viability of this technology in evaluating origin claims.
“To preserve consumer confidence, it is important that we have such technology available, alongside other traceability evidence, to ensure that COOL claims made on the pack are true. Farmers and growers in Scotland and throughout the UK quite rightly take pride in their produce and it is only right that when consumers buy British or Scottish produce to support farmers, they are confident that what is on the label is what is in the packet.
“The study did point to some limitations of SIRA > most notably the quality of databases currently available – and it is therefore positive that DEFRA and the FSA are working to develop databases for UK beef, poultry and eggs and that work at an EU level to encourage information sharing will help broaden the information available and improve SIRA’s usefulness in the future.”