Environment Secretary Steve Barclay has insisted that any changes to the labelling of food products will not lead to consumers having to pay more at the till.

The Government is consulting on plans to have imported products such as pork that do not meet UK welfare standards labelled as such, along with packaging that reflects when food is produced to the highest standards.

It wants more people to buy British food, with some farmers concerned that they will be undercut by cheaper foreign imports.

Speaking to journalists at the Oxford Farming Conference on Thursday, Mr Barclay said the changes are intended to avoid shoppers confusing foreign imports for their British counterparts.

He said: “It’s about recognising that there will be some consumers that want to to pay for quality that do care about animal welfare.

“Some people want to buy their coffee knowing that it’s fair trade, others will go purely on cost, so it’s about empowering the consumer.

“It’s not about closing off options for others, it’s about ensuring that someone who thinks when they see the Union Jack flag that the thing on the shelf is British, just making sure – and this concern has been raised with me – that quite often that is not the case.”

Rising food prices have made shopping increasingly unaffordable for many UK households, with three million emergency food packages distributed through food banks last year, according to the Trussell Trust.

Mr Barclay said he wants UK consumers to be better informed of what they are buying but health officials working in border controls are concerned that illegal meat intended for commercial use is entering the UK undetected.

Speaking to the publication Pig World, Beverley Edmondson, port health manager at Dover District Council and Port Health Authority, said unprecedented volumes of illegal meat are being seized at the Port of Dover and that for every tonne seized, multiple tonnes escape unnoticed.

The industry is worried about this raising the risk of African swine fever entering the country although no cases have yet been confirmed here.

Mark Spencer, the farming minister, said tourists bringing ham sandwiches back from their holidays is as risky for the spread of the disease as is people smuggling meat over in vans.

He told reporters: “It’s just as likely actually for a tourist to bring back a pork sandwich in their handbag. That’s where the danger is.

“I think there’s a role here for education to make sure that tourists and UK consumers don’t accidentally bring something back.”

Alongside the intended changes to labelling, the environment secretary said the Government will increase the amount of money given to farmers who produce food in nature-friendly ways, with premium payments available for those who take the most radical actions.

Environmental groups welcomed these intentions as a positive step towards recovering the UK’s natural environment, which has been devastated over the past few centuries through industrialisation, increased use of pesticides in agriculture and persecution.

The RSPCA, which has campaigned for greater transparency on food labelling, said information for consumers could be clearer across the board.

David Bowles, head of public affairs at the charity, said: “Currently, there is little information available to consumers to show them how farm animals have been reared.

“Instead, the public can be shown images of rolling green hills and animals in the sunshine which can be incredibly misleading and not reflective of reality in many cases.

“This is especially true of intensive farming practices which still account for around 70% of all land farming in the UK.”