The Government is calling on restaurants to increase the country of origin labelling on their menus in a bid to help customers better understand food provenance.
The Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (DEFRA) has written to the British Hospitality Association (BHA) urging chefs and restaurateurs to provide information on the origin of the main ingredients in dishes.
The letter comes after a voluntary code of practice was set up in 2010 by DEFRA to increase country of origin labelling across the food industry.
However, food and farming minister Jim Paice argued that not enough had been done. He 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."
The BHA said that, although it supports DEFRA's call on the industry, providing country of origin labelling on menus raised a number of difficult issues, which had to be overcome.
Food and technical affairs adviser John Dyson said caution was necessary. "Of course, we recognise that customers are keen to have more information on the country of origin of key ingredients but in the current difficult economic environment and tough trading conditions a very practical solution, which will assist food service businesses in meeting their customers' aspirations, will be needed," he said.
"Many caterers are already very pleased to state the origin of some of the products on their menus, such as meat or fish, but suppliers - and their source of supply - can change suddenly for reasons of availability, cost, quality or other factors. Restaurants with standard printed menus will have great difficulty in allowing for such sudden changes."
Dyson added: "We will also need to take a graduated approach as outlined in the High Level Principles launched by DEFRA 18 months ago, so that information can be provided without additional administrative burdens."
By Kerstin Kühn
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