Cookies with chocolate, origin of cocoa? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers

Dear Dongo lawyer,

we are updating the labels of branded products and I have a question about the label of the chocolate chip cookies. Since we indicate the quantity of chocolate, do we have to indicate the origin of the chocolate, or that of the cocoa?

Many thanks

Osvaldo


The lawyer Dario Dongo, Ph.D. in European food law, answers

Dear Osvaldo good morning,

the question raised is actually less obvious than it might appear. In the absence of specific indications in this regard in the guidelines of the European Commission, one can try to reason on ratio legis of Regulation (EU) no. 2018/775 to deduce a coherent interpretation of its objectives.

EU Reg. 2018/775, application and limits

Regulation (EU) 2018/775 - which has already been applied starting from 1.4.20 - requires that any diversity of origin be communicated on the label o origin of the primary ingredient with respect to the country of origin of the final product (i.e. the one where the last substantial transformation took place) and the latter has been indicated on the label. Even just through the citation of the location of the establishment or evocations with various images or wordings.

On closer inspection however, the mere recurrence of the aforementioned circumstances - in relation to one or more primary ingredients (as significant,> 50% in the recipe, or characterizing as they are highlighted on the label and / or generally associated with the product) - does not entail the application 'to all the costs of the regulation in question. In some cases, in fact, the specification that an ingredient (or its raw material, in the case of compound ingredients) has an origin or provenance other than Made in it is completely redundant and meaningless.

Chocolate or cocoa, origin or provenance?

In the case of chocolate used in a biscuit, the consumer could possibly be curious to know the origin of the product (understood as the country of its last substantial and economically relevant transformation, pursuant to EU regulation 1169/11, article 2.3). In other words, the consumer may perhaps be curious to know if the chocolate added to the biscuit was made in Italy, rather than in other EU or non-EU countries (eg Turkey).

Conversely, it should be excluded the hypothesis that the news regarding the different origin of the primary ingredient (cocoa berries) compared to the country of production of the compound ingredient (chocolate) used in the final product (biscuit with chocolate chips) may affect the choice of this last. All the more so as no alternative choice is envisaged, in the absence of cocoa crops in Europe.

Origin of cocoa

Cocoa used in the production of chocolate always comes from outside the EU and the specification of its country of origin has never been required:

- nor by the horizontal legislation, i.e. that applicable to the generality of food products (e.g. EU regulation 1169/11, EU regulation 2018/775),

- nor by vertical legislation. Which instead applies to the specific category of products. (1)

The indication of the origin cocoa is even optional in the labeling of 'Modica Chocolate'. L'only registered chocolate in the European Union as a PGI. (2) As proof, where ever there was a need, of the consumer's complete indifference to the origin of the cocoa.

Cordially

Dario

Footnotes

(1) dir. 2000/36 / EC, implemented in Italy with Legislative Decree 178/03, amended by law 217/11

(2) On the other hand, no chocolate is registered in the list of protected designations of origin (PDO), precisely because there is no tradition or current production of cocoa berries in Europe.



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