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Mr. Pickles: The hon. Lady is absolutely correct. That clearly shows that this is not an EU-bashing Bill; it is within EU law. The hon. Lady makes her point excellently, and I thank her for making it.
I understand that most beef purchased in the UK is in the form of mince; people make shepherd's pies, cottage pies, pasta dishes and so on with it. Yet apparently, the new regulation will not cover mince products. If someone buys a steak, the information will be on the label, but if the steak is minced, the label will not have to show country of origin. I cannot understand that.
Mr. Pickles: My eyesight is not good enough to see which document the hon. Lady is holding, but the Library has brought out a good briefing paper that goes into that in great detail. [Interruption.] I thank the hon. Lady for holding the document up for me to see; it is indeed the Library briefing, and the third or fourth page of it explains the details.
My substantive point is that when my hon. Friend the Member for Eddisbury (Mr. O'Brien) was trying to introduce his Bill, he was told by Ministers that what he wanted to do was not possible, because it was against EU regulations and law. The fact that we now have the scheme that the hon. Lady has just mentioned demonstrates beyond peradventure that that is not so.
Shona McIsaac: I thank the hon. Gentleman for his helpful intervention. I have read the excellent Library briefing note, which, as he says, goes into the subject in great detail. However, it does say that there will be concerns about certain EU regulations. I realise that the hon. Gentleman is saying that his Bill is not EU-bashing, but even the Library note says that concern could be raised about some of the measures that he wants to introduce.
Mr. Pickles: I was trying to arrive at a consensus, and was meeting representatives of the food labelling industry so as to incorporate their amendments. I then amended my hon. Friend's definition, to avoid getting entangled in any possibility of infringing EU law. It is my fault that the Library staff had not caught up with the changes. When they spoke to me I said that my Bill would be
Shona McIsaac: I thank the hon. Gentleman for that explanation, and for being so open about what happened. When I saw that he was going to introduce a Bill on food labelling I went to ask for a copy. I realise that it was a little late in appearing, but now I understand what happened.
Country of origin will have to be listed for major ingredientsthat is, ingredients that constitute more than 25 per cent. of the product by weight. If the Bill gets into Committee I should like that definition to be 25 per cent. of dry weight; otherwise the largest ingredient may be water, and people will not get the information that many Members want to see on food labels.
Mr. Dismore: What troubles me about that idea is: what happens when the product is supposed to be liquid, such as an alcoholic drink or soft beverage? How does one define the dry weight of a fizzy drink, beer or wine?
Shona McIsaac: I must admit that that is a conundrum; I was thinking mainly of foods such as ready meals, as mentioned by the hon. Member for Upminster (Angela Watkinson), who is no longer in her place. I was thinking in particular of ingredients in recipes for such foods, as opposed to fizzy drinks. The hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar is concerned mainly about meat products, so he is probably not very worried about the country of origin of the ingredients of fizzy drinksmost of which now seem to be created in chemical factories.
Mr. Dismore: May I give my hon. Friend the specific example of wine? We have heard reports over the years of some real shenanigans in parts of the continent, with wines from two, three or four different countries being slung in a tank together and then rebottled. I would be very concerned if my hon. Friend's definition of dry weight did not catch such practices.
Shona McIsaac: My hon. Friend has certainly revealed something else that will have to be addressed in the Bill. Instead of merely specifying weight, perhaps we should specify dry weight for certain goods. We need to clarify that part of the Bill and expand it to take into account the concerns that my hon. Friend has raised.
Shona McIsaac: All I say about Irn Bru is that we should drink vast amounts of it. I adore it. I am reliably informed that it is one of the best hangover cures. Perhaps we should stock a little more of it in the Members' Tea Room, as some Members may benefit from it at breakfast.
Mr. Stephen O'Brien: Rather than prying too deeply into hangover cures, I want to refer to the points made by the hon. Member for Hendon. They would make exceptionally good points for scrutiny in Committee.
Shona McIsaac: I do not think that anybody has been particularly destructive today. We have all made valuable contributions to the debate. Indeed, what has come out of the debate is our genuine passion for food and for the wonderful products of our islands. We are all trying to be helpful. We may have some concerns about aspects of the Bill. For example, I am worried that food can be labelled as low fat when in fact it is not. Such things need to be addressed and unless I raise them now, they may not be dealt with in Committee. I am putting down my marker to say: "Somebody, look at these," so that if the Bill goes into Committee, those points will have to be addressed.
Reading through the ingredients of the staple food product in my office, I found that they were wheat flour and milk chocolate28 per cent.so that could be the major ingredient. However, the label does not make it clear whether that 28 per cent. relates to the fact that the milk chocolate is 28 per cent. of the product or to the fact that the milk chocolate has only 28 per cent. cocoa solids. We can be misled even by something as innocent as a chocolate digestive biscuit. Incidentally, my hon. Friend the Member for Falmouth and Camborne may want to know that it contains 87 calories with 4.1 grammes of fat. That would work out as a fat content of about 33 per cent. so
Shona McIsaac: In that case, I hope that the hon. Gentleman is taking note of the issues that I have raised this morning. When we consider the list of ingredients of a product, the major constituent is not always clear. Although ingredients are meant to be listed in order of quantity, in the case of chocolate digestives the 28 per cent. probably relates to the milk chocolate rather than the product's weight.
I thank the hon. Member for Brentwood and Ongar again for his thoughtful speech and his generosity in allowing so many interventions. I am eternally grateful to him for causing me to clean out my larder of all the out-of-date food. He has done a service to the McIsaac household.
Ultimately, all Members here today have a passion for food, especially British food, and we want to promote the very best products that this country produces. I hope that the hon. Gentleman has taken on board my concerns, particularly the way in which statistics are played with. Food labels must be clear, honest and completely unambiguous in relation not just to country of origin but to health and nutrition.