The blacklisting of a fleet of fishing vessels which done everything to avoid scrutiny of their illegal activities highlights the dire need for transparency Minister of State for Fisheries, Lord Benyon took questions on UK standards for pet food labelling at Tuesday's EFRA Committee meeting

Minister of State for Fisheries, Lord Benyon took questions on UK standards for pet food labelling at Tuesday’s EFRA Committee meeting

Fisheries consultant, Terri Portmann has welcomed the raising of the question on the UK government’s commitment to closing loopholes when it comes the labelling of pet food.

Three years ago, Terri raised concerns over the labelling of pet food in an article for the Blue Marine Foundation called, ‘What are you putting in your cat?

In the article she wrote:

“The price of cat food often exceeds that of canned fish for human consumption but by contrast there is very little information on pet food about what fish products have been used, where they came from and how they were caught. This is worrying as the lack of information could be hiding illegal, unreported or unsustainable fishing activity or even that the food could contain threatened species. A quick look at the ingredients lists across the own-brand supermarket cat food lines demonstrates that some species that are under pressure such as tuna and cod are being used. But without additional information about who, where and how these stocks were caught consumers can have no confidence that fish are not from stocks at risk, nor that the fish was even caught legally.”

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At yesterday’s EFRA Committee meeting with Lord Benyon, Minister of State, Department for Environment, Food and Rural. Labour MP, Barry Gardner posed the question:

“I’m sure the ministers will recall the Blue Marine Foundation report, ‘What are you putting into your cat?’ which looked at the issue bycatch and one of the conclusions of that here was that the labelling requirements in this country were just not strong enough, and indeed the supermarkets I think had agreed that they were going to strengthen this by 2017, and still have it.  

That means that if you look at what’s on a tin of cat food, which we spend £1.2 billion on a year, actually, it often says just ocean fish.  

“Now, one of the requirements for better labelling that the supermarket signed up to was to get specific details of the species that were going in because of a study that was done, I think in America, were showing that shortfin Mako, and hammerhead shark were actually in some of the pet food. Now cat owners would be horrified to know that.  

“So, I just wondered if you could look at the labelling requirements and make sure that the supermarkets and the suppliers actually tighten those up.”

To which Lord Benyon replied:

“Absolutely. It’s not a conversation I’ve had in my in a few weeks that I’ve had this responsibility, but you’ve raised something very important and I’m very familiar with Blue Marine Foundation and the work they do, so I’ll definitely follow that one up. It is about labelling, and this takes us on to international governance and our position now being able to join RFMO’s in the way that we couldn’t in the past. Our ability to take a more aggressive, more ambitious stand in international foyer and if we’re not, it’s a good that we can be as virtuous as we want but it’s not happening globally.” 

Responding to today’s question Terri Portmann said:

“It is great to see Barrie Gardner asking about this. Let’s hope that DEFRA and its Ministers waste no time in closing these labelling loopholes that mean endangered species, to include dolphin and whales could be in our pet food and fed to the family pet”. 

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