Food name


Food designation, labeling the key to making good choices

How to choose one food from the many others on the shelf? Brand name is the first element of appeal for most consumers, who place their trust in the branded industry, or the large retail chain. Yet, careful reading of the label can encourage informed purchasing choices. Let’s see how to do it.

The name of the food is
the first mandatory information on the label
, the one that allows us to know the nature of the product. It should not be confused with the trademark, or trade name, which has the sole value of identifying and distinguishing the individual item of a manufacturer or distributor from others.

‘The name of the food is its legal designation. In its absence, the name of the food shall be its usual name; where no usual name exists or is not used, a descriptive name shall be provided.’

(EU Reg. 1169/11, Article 17)

The legal designation is provided for most basic foods. Such as dairy products, eggs, delicatessen products, pasta and semolina, rice, bread and flours, panettone, and other characteristic desserts. Also, olive oils, tomato preserves, fruit juices and nectars, natural mineral water, some soft drinks, jams and marmalades, wines and spirits, etc. It is lacking, however, in other essential foods, such as meats and meat products, now including ‘ready-to-eat’ products for vegetarians and vegans.

The use of a legal name assures the consumer that the product corresponds to the quality requirements of composition and/or preparation defined by the European or national legislature. In cases of registered geographical indications–e.g., PDO, PGI, TSG–the use of the characteristic name is bound to compliance with a more or less strict specification, depending on the situation. The same applies to traditional agri-food products mentioned in special list periodically updated by the Ministry of Agriculture. (1)

The customary name is what is referred to, in the absence of a special regulation, for foods traditionally known to the average consumer. (2) The examples are countless; one only has to look at the ‘food and drink’ area of our website to discern dozens. From carasau bread to taralli, orecchiette or agnolotti. Mortadella and Tiramisu, to each his own.

In contrast, descriptive naming is necessary when normative or customary references are lacking. In such cases, the food must be described accurately so that consumAtors can easily understand the nature of the product. Eyes always open, and pay attention to the ingredient list!

Dario Dongo


(1) Cf. Ministerial Decree 14.7.17, ‘Updating the national list of traditional food products, pursuant to Article 12, Paragraph 1, of Law Dec. 12, 2016, no. 238’, in G.U. 176, 29.7.17

(2) With attention to the significance and comprehensibility of the name in the geographical area where the product is sold. V.



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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.