Union jack flag in beefYou shouldn’t believe everything you read in newspapers.  In fact, where certain of our print media is concerned, and the article concerns Europe, it’s probably best to assume it’s inaccurate, right from the start.  It saves time.

The most recent story – that there is a dastardly EU plot to ban the Union Flag being put on British meat products – was carried in the Daily Express, the Mail and the Telegraph.  

Not surprisingly, it is not true.   

The story concerns new details, announced by the European Commission last week and welcomed by Labour MEPs, regarding the labelling of pre-packaged fresh meat from sheep, goats, poultry and pigs (beef is already covered under existing legislation).

The aim of the new rules is to bring in clearer labelling of Member State origin.   This will ensure that when you buy meat labelled as “British”, you can be sure it really is British and not, for example, just imported from Brazil or Poland for slaughter here in the UK.   

Far from it being some kind of threat from Brussels, it’s actually a guarantee of national provenance, and British farmers and British customers have been calling for it for years.  It was something I campaigned for, and succeeded in getting, when new food labelling laws were passed by the European Parliament, and it was clear that it had huge support.

The new rules will not prevent the use of national flags or other additional geographical labels.  Other symbols, such as the “Red Tractor” logo aren’t prohibited either. 

The European Commission, in their rebuttal, say they told the Express the story was wrong; they still printed it.    The Mail and Telegraph didn’t even bother to check.  So much for responsible journalism.

But there is a bigger principle involved here.  If these papers can’t (or won’t) even get a simple story like this right, what hope is there of getting accurate and trustworthy accounts of more substantial European issues.

So if there is eventually a referendum on UK membership of the EU, how informed will people’s ultimate decision be, if they get most of their information from newspapers who behave like this?

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