January 28/Brussels/Euractiv -- The origin country of products is a key criteria for EU consumers when buying food, according to a survey by the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC).

In a new BEUC member research, 70% of the respondents said the origin is an important factor when buying food. "Consumers want more and more to know where their food comes from, but the state of play is quite confusing at the moment," Ruth Veale, head of BEUC's Food, Health, Environment and Safety Department said.

The survey also found that a clear majority of shoppers want to know the specific country their food comes from. "Most consumers are interested in the origin because they relate this to the quality and the safety of the food," said Camille Perrin, food policy officer at BEUC, adding that most respondents also said they wish to support local farming, economy or companies.

Meat is the product on which most consumers said they wanted to know the country origin. There's also a strong interest in knowing the origin country of fruit and vegetables, fish, milk and diary products where 70-90% of the consumers want to see origin labelling.

In the EU, the origin must always be labelled for olive oil, fish (unless it's canned or prepared), beef, fresh or frozen poultry of non-EU origin, wine, most fresh fruit and vegetables, honey and eggs. For all other foods, origin labelling is only voluntary. The new EU food labelling legislation which will apply from December 2014 will include origin labelling of fresh meat from pigs, sheep, goats and poultry;

BEUC recommended that origin labelling should become mandatory for all meats, milk, unprocessed foods, single-ingredient foods such as flour and sugar and ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food.