In order to combat the devastating loss of consumer confidence following the horse meat scandal that occurred in France roughly one year ago, the French government has recently introduced a new ‘Viandes de France” initiative designed to provide a comprehensive branding and quality control system and ensure that consumers are aware that the meat products they are purchasing have passed all sanitary and environmental requirements established by the Agriculture Ministry.
The new system of labels is designed to encompass a broad spectrum of meat products, including poultry, beef, veal, pork, horse and rabbit. The labels will be clearly visible on all meat products manufactured in France. This is the first time that such a consummate infrastructure has been enacted within the French government, and it is believed that this new series of labels will not only ensure the quality of meat products offered here but also ensure that the export prices are fully maximised.
While changes such as these are inevitably a gradual process, Stéphane Le Fol, the minister of the French Agriculture Ministry, has stated that the new ‘Viandes de France” will be fully implemented by the end of the year. With such changes, the question must be asked as to whether these labeling development will indeed solve the fundamental issue: meat production practices in France. Although a label does offer, on some level, an assurance of compliance, only time will tell as to whether the products themselves match the standards promised by the new labeling initiative.
France is one of several countries currently rethinking their labeling practices. The United States Food and Drug Administration is also in the process of redesigning nutrition labels in order to ensure that customers can quickly access relevant and pertinent information on their products.
Unfortunately, beneficial changes such as those France is currently undertaking most often seem to follow on the heels of controversy. Whether or not this new labeling system would have been initiated had the horse meat scandal not occurred will remain a hypothetical point of discussion for the foreseeable future. Only with time can the effectiveness of these new changes be fully evaluated.