The Farmers' Union of Wales today described a European Parliament decision to demand mandatory country of origin labelling of food as a major step forward in the union's lengthy campaign to protect the high quality of Welsh produce.

"Farmers in Wales have good reason to want all producers to ensure labelling is accurate and unambiguous," said FUW president Gareth Vaughan.

"In the past few years imported meat has been the subject of a number of mislabelling incidents which could have tarnished the quality image of food produced in Wales and the union was compelled to highlight the mislabelling of Argentinian rump steak - displaying the British flag and British farm standards logo - at a major supermarket chain in Bangor.

"The store said the mislabelling was a mix-up and was quickly corrected after it was pointed out by the union. Another FUW member in Snowdonia revealed how meals served to children at a local school included food said to be '80% Welsh Beefburgers' but the labels on the boxes stated they were manufactured by a company in Hull."

During yesterday's debate in Strasbourg around two thirds of UK MEPs agreed to back a clear demand to send a strong political message in favour of mandatory country of origin labelling to the other EU institutions.

Their amendment urges "the country or place of provenance shall be given for the following: meat; poultry; dairy products; fresh fruit and vegetables; other single ingredients and meat and poultry and fish used as an ingredient in processed foods".

Their decision will now be passed onto EU governments in the Council of Ministers for approval. "We hope the Council of Ministers will now agree with the commonsense approach of MEPs to this matter and offer no more opposition to the measure," Mr Vaughan added.