Today With Pat Kenny
The mid-morning current affairs magazine with the stories of the day, sharp analysis, in-depth features and consumer interest
The mid-morning current affairs magazine with the stories of the day, sharp analysis, in-depth features and consumer interest
Well the economic fall-out from the horsemeat controversy has started in earnest as the fast food giant Burger King has pulled out of a contract with Silvercrest meats reported to be worth €30 million.
The Co Monaghan plant employs 112 people locally and the contract represented 8,000 tonnes of its 15,000 tonne product.
So has the government acted quickly enough to clarify the facts surrounding the provinence of the burger meat and what will all this mean for those employed with Silvercrest...
Pat was joined by the Minister for Agriculture Fisheries and Food Simon Coveney.
Taoiseach Enda Kenny and Minister for Finance Michael Noonan are meeting the head of the International Monetary Fund Christine Lagarde at the World Economic Forum in Davos.
It is understood they are discussing Ireland's economic situation as well as the prospects for Ireland to exit the EU-IMF bailout at the end of this year.
Pat spoke to Tony Connelly, RTE’s Europe Editor.
An Irish nanny in Boston has been charged with injuring a baby girl in her care who later died.
Aisling McCarthy Brady, 34, from Co Cavan, has been living in the US since 2002.
She is charged with assaulting the one-year-old child on or about 14 January.
Pat spoke with Kevin Cullen of the Boston Globe.
With Tina Leaonard
With the discovery of trace elements of horse DNA in some of our supermarket burgers, there has been a focus on what information should be on the label and what information consumers should be given before they make their decision to buy a food product.
Current food labelling legislation needs to improve and although new legislation is on way, it’s still almost two years’ off.
So, just what should be on the label of a food product, what changes are on the cards and are some supermarkets ahead of the law in terms of giving consumers the information they want?
Tina Leonard was here to explain.
What must appear on packaging under labelling legislation?
Name under which the product is sold *List of ingredientsQuantity of certain ingredientsNet quantity * Date of minimum durability *Any special storage instructions or conditions of useName or business name and address of the manufacturer or packager, or of a seller within the European UnionPlace of origin of the foodstuff if its absence might mislead the consumer to a material degreeInstructions for use where necessaryBeverages with more than 1.2% alcohol by volume must declare their actual alcoholic strength *
These details must appear in the same field of vision
What has to be in the list of ingredients?
The short answer to this is, everything. That is every ingredient that is used to make the product, no matter how small, even if it is less than 1% for example.
In the case of the burgers containing trace elements of horse DNA, if this was a knowingly added ingredient and part of what went into making the product, then legally it would have to be listed.
What about where the food comes from? If we say produced in Ireland on a label, what does that actually mean?
You might have noticed from the list above relating to what must appear on the label, that it didn’t say a country of origin for all products has to be shown. And that’s because it doesn’t have to.
In fact it is only compulsory in two instances: firstly for certain specified foodstuffs and secondly where to not do so would be misleading.
So what are these specified foodstuffs?
Here are the specified foodstuffs that must include a country of origin:
Raw beef and vealRaw poultry meat from a third country (i.e. non EU)Fruit and vegetablesHoney
Labels on these products must follow certain rules. For example the beef has to be born, raised and slaughtered in the country named and fruit and vegetables have to be grown in the country.
The list includes raw meat, what about processed meat?
But look at the list again; it covers only some raw meat and poultry. And that means that ready meals are excluded.
So, lets take the example of a chicken dinner. The chicken could be imported from anywhere and then made into a chicken Kiev or chicken meal in Ireland. The chicken is no longer raw so even if it is from a third country (i.e. non EU), the country of origin rule no longer applies.
Having been made into a meal, it has now undergone what’s called “substantive transformation”. An amount of production has taken place here so while it’s not obligatory, the label can now read “product of Ireland’, even though you have no idea where the chicken was reared.
So are there any plans to change these rules?
New labelling rules will come into force across the EU from 13th December next year. This new EU Regulation replaces previous separate Directives on labelling, presentation, advertising and also nutritional labeling.
The new rules extend the list of foods for which country of origin labelling is mandatory to raw meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry.
And the current rule where country of origin labelling applies if without it consumers could be mislead will still apply.
What about if a product contains the name of a place of origin…parma ham for example…or Clonakilty black pudding. Must the product come from there?
This is the other scenario where a country or origin must currently be indicated: let’s say a product includes in its name a place name, like Clonakilty pudding or Parma ham. We all assume from the name that the product is from Clonakilty or Parma and so the product must be.
Under the new rules to come there will be a new aspect to this. If origin is declared i.e. Irish marmalade or Irish beef pie then at least 50% of the product must be Irish and a separate country of origin if different must be declared.
However, this will be a voluntary rule, so will only apply if the producer decides to name origin in the first instance.
And, in fact we don’t yet know exactly how the new country of origin rules will apply. That’s because the implementation rules won’t be ready until December this year and various assessments are currently underway related to this. For example, it isn’t even finally decided if the origin rule should be per country, per Member State or simply be ‘made in the EU’.
Supermarkets ahead of the law
However, it should be noted that some supermarkets do indicate origin on some of their own brand foods above and beyond legal requirements. You can see this on raw poultry for example and on some processed foods. This is positive to see and is an indication that often the producers and retailers can and do move faster to respond to their consumers’ needs.
For example, recently I checked chicken jalfrezi ready meals and on the M&S packaging it stated that the product was produced in the UK with chicken coming from “M&S assured farms in the Netherlands”. On the packaging of a Tesco chicken jalfrezi meal it stated that it was “produced in the UK, using chicken from Thailand”.
This level of information is not currently legally required, nor will it be required under the new rules.
What about nutrition labelling? Are products obliged to show things like calories, fat levels etc?
It is not compulsory at the moment for all products to include nutritional information. It is only compulsory if a nutritional claim is made on the label, i.e. high in fibre, low in fat etc. Then the label must comply with Regulations and include: energy value; nutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, fibre, sodium and components on them, certain vitamins and minerals if present in significant amounts.
New nutritional rules on health claims
From 13th December last year new EU rules on nutritional health claims came into force.
These might relate to: growth, development and functions of the body; refer to psychological and behavioural functions or to slimming or weight-control. Or you could have ‘risk reduction’ claims such as “plant stanol esters have been shown to reduce blood cholesterol” or claims relating to childrens’ development such as “vitamin D is needed for the normal growth and development of bone in children”.
The new rules update their definitions of what can be called low fat or low sugar for example and give precise quantities that must be present in order to make those claims. For example a claim that a food is low in fat can only be made where the product contains no more than 3 g of fat per 100 g for solids or 1,5 g of fat per 100 ml for liquids (1,8 g of fat per 100 ml for semi-skimmed milk).
Also, a claim stating that sugars have not been added to a food, can only be made where the product does not contain any added sweeteners. If sugars are naturally present in the food, the following indication should also appear on the label: ‘CONTAINS NATURALLY OCCURRING SUGARS’ and this is an important differential for fruit juices for example.
How are consumers supposed to know all this?
There is no way that anyone will know by heart that low fat now has to mean no more than 3g of fat per 100g of solids or that health claims are carefully controlled.
The take home information that consumers get is whatever is indicated on the packaging. You do see clear nutritional information on most products. This is voluntary on the part of the producer / retailer and is a clear response to what consumers want i.e. clear information.
Any plans to make it compulsory?
But under the new labelling laws to come nutritional labelling will be mandatory for ALL products, and not just those that make a health claim as is the case currently. In addition the nutrient value list will change order pushing fat and calorie content to the top.
But the bad news is that this part of the law won’t be in force until December 2016!
But with so much information now on packages isn’t it often too opaque and too difficult?
It certainly can be. The idea of using a traffic light system as a clear ‘at a glance’ indication of levels of sugar, fat, salt calories etc was put forward but eventually dismissed, in part due to lobbying from food industry and retailers and also from various Member States who have their own country-wide systems that their consumers have grown used to and trust. (As a matter of interest the Irish stance was to seek a harmonised approach).
However, in what can only be described as an ‘about turn’, in the UK last October the government there secured agreement from food producers and retailers that they would use a consistent front-of-pack traffic light nutrition labeling system (it will be a hybrid system combining colour coding, the daily guideline amounts and ‘high, medium or low’ wording).
This is a voluntary national agreement and allowed under current and new EU nutrition labeling rules.
This is due to start by summer this year, and we are likely to see the impact here, from Tesco, Aldi and Lidl. M&S already use their own traffic-light system on front of packs, but the design may change to be consistent with the others. It will be very interesting to see what impact this has on non-UK food retailers and their products here.
By Tony Juniper (Published by Profile Books)
Good news – it seems that money really does grow on trees! Or so argues Tony Juniper in his new book, What has nature ever done for us? From Indian vultures to Chinese bees, Nature provides the 'natural services' that keep the economy going. From the recycling miracles in the soil; an army of predators ridding us of unwanted pests; an abundance of life creating a genetic codebook that underpins our food, pharmaceutical industries and much more, it has been estimated that these and other services are each year worth about double global GDP. Yet we take most of Nature's services for granted, imagining them free and limitless…until they suddenly switch off.
The early bird application date for the CAO has now passed and so far nearly 60,000 people both young and old have applied. Over the next few days a further 14,000 applicants will apply paying an additional sum of €15 on top of the €25 which those who applied before the 20th January deadline paid.
But there are educational opportunities beyond our own domestic application system. A growing number are exploring degree options available within other EU countries. While millions worldwide are conducting their third level studies entirely online.
To discuss these two educational opportunities we were joined again this morning by Brian Mooney, Guidance Counsellor and Educational Columnist with the Irish Times.
Valerie Cox reports.
Diarmaid McDermott, Ireland International Newsagency.