Decree on the origin of milk on the label. Good news, timing and weaknesses

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The so-called decree on the origin of milk on the label comes into effect these days. The good news, timing and weaknesses, to follow.

Decree on the origin of milk on the label, the good news

Interministerial Decree Dec. 9, 2016 (1) requires the country of milking and the country of milk processing to be mentioned‘on the labels of the following food products’ made in Italy:

– cheeses, (2) dairy products and curds,
– butter, cream and milk-derived fats,
– dairy spreads,
– Milk and milk creams (including concentrated, with added sugar or sweeteners),
– Buttermilk, curdled milk and cream, kefir and other fermented or acidified milk and cream (if purely concentrated, with added sugar or sweeteners, fruit or cocoa, flavorings),
– Whey (including concentrated or with added sugar or sweeteners),
– products consisting of natural milk components (when even with added sugar or sweeteners).

It does not apply to foods made in the EU, the European Economic Area and Turkey. Nor to products registered as PDO, PGI and those certified as organic.

The terms ‘milk mixture from EU countries’ (and/or ‘non-EU’ ) or ‘milk packaged or processed in EU countries’ (and/or ‘non-EU’) may be used, in the respective cases. (3)

The summary indication ‘origin of milk (….)’ is also allowed as an alternative to the above, if it was milked and processed in the same national territory.

Decree on the origin of milk on labels, timing

The new labels, specifying the origin of the milk, must be used from April 19, 2017.

However, dairy products ‘matured, placed on the market or labeled‘ before that date may be marketed until stocks are exhausted, within the 180-day deadline thereafter.

However, the decree applies‘on an experimental basis until March 31, 2019‘ and will then cease to take effect the following day. (4)

Decree on the origin of milk on the label, the weak points

Theuse of curds in cheese production remains deliberately concealed from consumers.

Minister Maurizio Martina proclaims‘policies of maximum information and transparency‘. (5) Yet, in the ministerial circular addressed‘to business organizations‘ and‘inspection bodies,’ it took care to specify that:

‘the only ingredient of pre-packaged dairy products (…) whose origin in terms of “country of milking,” “country of packaging or country of processing” should be indicated is milk.’ Thus excluding from ‘maximum information and transparency’ all other ingredients, defined as
‘any substance or product, including flavorings, food additives and food enzymes, and any constituent of a compound ingredient used in the manufacture or preparation of a food and still present in the finished product, even if in a modified form.’ (6)

He was also at pains to clarify, the minister, that‘The criterion of acquisition of origin under current European regulations remains in place.’ (7) And thus, the ‘country of processing’ of milk is to be confused with the country where the last substantial processing took place. (8)

In any case, the measure applies only to prepackaged foods. With the exclusion therefore of‘products sold in bulk, those packaged at places of sale at the consumer’s request or pre-packaged for direct sale‘. (9)

Also excluded are‘products not intended for the final consumer because they are intended for further processing (B2B) by other parties, such as compound ingredients used in the preparation of pre-packaged dairy products.’ (6)

The sword of Damocles remains the outcome of the litigation initiated in the WTO by the United States and Canada against the milk origin decree and the wheat decree. With CETA on the way, there is a risk of having to repeal both decrees or suffer retaliation in terms of new import duties.

Notes

(1) In the Official Gazette January 19, 2017, at http://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2017/01/19/17A00291/sg
(2) Excluded, however, are ‘products containing milk that do not constitute dairy products, as well as cheeses that do not fall under the definition of Royal Decree Law No. October 15, 1925. 2033 and in any case products that do not fall under dairy products in the aforementioned Annex 1.
The definition of dairy product is contained in Part III of Annex VII of Regulation (EU) No. 1308/2013 (Single CMO Regulation)’. See Ministerial Circular February 24, 2017, in Official Gazette April 3, 2017, General Series no. 78, at http://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/eli/id/2017/04/03/17A02419/sg
(3) Such indications may also be given in cases of ‘milk having originated from time to time from only one EU country or from only one non-EU country, provided that the supply of milk by the same company habitually comes from different EU countries or different non-EU countries’. (See circular referred to in footnote 2)
(4) Milk Origin Decree, Article 7.
(5) See press release https://www.politicheagricole.it/flex/cm/pages/ServeBLOB.php/L/IT/IDPagina/11204
(6) See circular referred to in footnote 2, at 2.
(7) Ibid, item 1, last paragraph.
(8) The reg. EU 952/13 refers to ‘the last substantial and economically justified processing or working, carried out at an enterprise equipped for that purpose, which resulted in the manufacture of a new product or was an important step in the manufacturing process’ (Art. 60.2)
(9) As specified in Circular 24.2.17, item 1.
(10) Idem c.s.