The government is encouraging restaurants to provide food provenance labelling on their menus.

The government is encouraging restaurants to provide food provenance labelling on their menus.

Calls are being made by the government for the food featured on menus to be labelled with its country of origin, but what are the benefits and drawbacks of this for the hospitality industry?

In a letter to the British Hospitality Association, the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs asked for more to be done on the matter. It comes after a voluntary code of practice put in place by the department in 2010 has been all but ignored by the industry.

The move is one which is likely to be popular with customers as a greater awareness of their role in terms of influencing ethics and sustainability is spreading. In recent years fair trade products and materials that don't damage the planet have become increasingly popular and sustainability is the new buzz word.

The restaurant industry is not exempt from this and despite the UK's sometimes exotic tastes there has been a push back towards British produce. This has come partly due to the environmental concerns associated with excessive food miles, but also because the UK economy is in need of as much help as possible.

With both of these considerations in mind it makes sense for as many ingredients to be sourced locally as possible. Customers can vote with their feet and the extra knowledge, which can often be seen on foods bought in supermarkets, such as British strawberries has become popular.

If this is the way in which the trend is going then it can make good business sense for restaurants to get ahead of the game and bring it in early. Measures implemented by the government may be widespread, but the restaurants which bring in popular practices such as provenance labelling ahead of the crowd will be remembered for it.

Jim Paice, the food and farming minister, 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." But as is the case with most of these things it is not just the will to make a change, but the practical implications that can come along with it. With all the will in the world to buy British there will still be circumstances when the supply chain breaks down and an alternative must be found at the last minute. This presents problems where food provenance labelling is concerned as menus have to be changed at the last minute.

John Dyson, technical affairs advisor at the British Hospitality Association, said: "Restaurants with standard printed menus will have great difficulty in allowing for such sudden changes."

Choice is what customers want more and more and it is becoming a more complicated issue as it takes not just flavour into account, but a myriad of other aspects as well. Health concerns with calorie and salt labelling, ethical elements and the economy, as well as the cost to British diners all have an impact. But by supplying customers with more information about a product they can make a better decision as they have all the facts to hand.

Food provenance labelling is a big undertaking, but it may be one that becomes widespread in the future, because there is a demand for it.
Back to Blog