UK mulls 'British only' filter button to encourage online shoppers to buy home produce

UK mulls 'British only' filter button to encourage online shoppers to buy home produce

Almost two thirds of UK consumers would like the option to view only British produce when they shop online, according to new research.

The YouGov poll of 2,246 adults also discovered that 81% of respondents felt there should be the same amount of information regarding country of origin on websites as there is on food packaging in-store.

Meurig Raymond, president of the National Farmers Union (NFU), which commissioned the survey, said it would be “good practice”

for retailers selling online to use a British flag on their listings page to highlight British products.

“… we know from public surveys that shoppers want to buy more British food products produced on British farms,” he explained.

“A British ‘filter button’ would give online shoppers the ability to easily choose British products.”

COOL and controversial

In March, UK farming minister George Eustice said he was looking at the idea of an online search function in order to promote home-grown produce. However, it might not be straightforward given EU regulations on country of origin labelling (COOL).

Under current laws there is already mandatory labelling on poultry, pigs, lamb and beef, but member states can also introduce additional labelling for specific food categories, including an indication of origin, provided they can justify the move is to protect public health or consumers.

Recently, there’s been a wave of interest in extending COOL. France has already beguntrials of mandatory COOL for processed meat and dairy products, for example; other countries have made similar requests to the European Commission.

Supporters believe the labelling will restore trust, improve transparency and help shoppers support local producers. “Why are manufacturers hiding [this information]?” is the argument often put forward by campaigners.

A majority of MEPs also want COOL extended to lightly processed meat and dairy products.

The last EU-wide consumer survey, back in 2013, showed strong support for the labels on processed foods (90% considered it important) and milk (84%). Backing for the measures is only likely to have intensified since – food safety and transparency are currently front of mind following the Brexit vote and the controversial Transatlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP).

But critics say extending COOL further is in conflict with the single market principle. Some even argue the labels distract consumers from making more sustainable food choices.

Industry group FoodDrinkEurope, meanwhile, has claimed the French scheme will lead to higher production and consumer costs, though MEPs have suggested otherwise.

In a recent survey conducted by FoodNavigator, readers were split: 38% were concerned about the move towards more COOL, compared to 31% who were not.

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