EUROPE – Obligation to indicate the country of origin on ‘Italian sounding’ products

reg.Ue 1169

'Perhaps not everyone knows that' - or have not noticed that- the 'Food Information to Consumers' Regulation (1) introduced a first and important innovation in the indication of the origin of food products, with major consequences on the 'obligation to indicate the country where the last substantial transformation took place, when this does not coincide with the one where the food appears to come from, also because of the brand used. Let’s look into this issue.

EU regulation 1169/2011 – in confirming the general voluntary nature of the indication of the country of origin (2), provides that "The indication of the country of origin or place of provenance is mandatory: (a) if where failure to give such particulars might mislead the consumer as to the country of origin or place of provenance of the food, in particular if the information accompanying the food or the label as a whole would otherwise imply that the food has a different country of origin or place of provenance"(Article 26 Country of origin or place of provenance, paragraph 2).

MEP Hon Elisabetta Gardini, in her written 02.02.2015 question – in addition to requesting confirmation of the legitimacy of the project at the time announced by the Minister Maurizio Martina to restore on labels in Italy the obligation to declare the place of provenance of the production (3) – has asked the European Commission to clarify the existence of the duty to indicate the country of origin or place of provenance of the food, whenever its omission is likely to mislead the consumer about its actual origin. With particular regard to the information accompanying the marketing of the product, including the trademark used.

Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, in his reply of 27/02/15, has clarified the obligation to indicate the origin of the product when its omission is likely to mislead consumers because of the way the products are presented, in relation to the trademarks used (in accordance with Article 26.2.a). i.e. that in all cases in which a food is marketed and promoted with an Italian brand, and yet it has been produced in a different territory, the country where the last substantial transformation of the product has taken place must be specified on the label.

cibo made in italy2

The result is an obligation to specify on the label the country of origin of the food whenever the product appears as 'Made in Italy' – also because of a brand that consumers associate with Italy – and yet it was made elsewhere (c.d. 'Italian sounding').

the consumActor (http://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/news-food-times/editoriale-expo-2015-milano-e-il-ruolo-cruciale-dei-consumattori) therefore has every right to know, to name a few examples, that a frozen pizza branded Buitoni is made in Germany, and that some Algida ice creams (http://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/news-food-times/algida-dopo-70-anni-lo-storico-marchio-italiano-inizia-le-vacanze) are made in countries other than Italy.

The supervisory authorities like consumer associations have therefore the right and duty to require, in all cases in which a food marketed under an Italian brand is not actually produced in Italy, the complete reference to the country of origin on the label. Albeit waiting for the Italian Government to comply with its obligations – to adapt the national legislation on labeling to the new European legislation, and to define the penalties for its infringement – Italian brand companies that have relocated their production have already been recommended to put on labels the country of the final processing of food.

Dario Dongo


Note

(1) EU Reg. 1169/2011
(2) Under EU reg. 450/08 (c.d. Community Customs Code, Art. 60.2), "Goods to whose production more than one country or territory contributed shall be deemed to have originated in the country or territory where they underwent their last transformation, or substantial, and economically justified processing, carried out in a plant equipped for that purpose, which shall result in the manufacture of a new product or which has represented an important phase of the manufacturing process. "
(3) Please note: the obligation to cite on labels the production and / or packaging plant of food products manufactured and sold in Italy was already foreseen in the Legislative Decree no. 109/1992, and in due course accepted by the Commission, based on the shared need to protect public health. On the subject, we refer back to the petition launched by Great Italian Food Trade, on http://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette-alimentari/etichette-trasparenti

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