Origin wheat, rice, and tomato. Theoretical renewal of decrees

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The wheat, rice and tomato origin decrees undergo a theoretical renewal, ‘on a trial basis,’ until Dec. 31.12.20. In the guilty silence of the Commission and the Ombudsman, one can only wait for a ruling from the Court of Justice in Luxembourg. Or the Italian Constitutional Court.

Information on the origin of primary ingredients is essential to foster supply chain integrity and value creation on the ground. And it is therefore that we must urge the Commission to follow up on the European citizens’ initiative EatORIGINal! Unmask your food! Instead of publishing decrees that, as will be seen, are worth waste paper.

‘April Fools’ Decree’

Decree 1.4.20, signed by Ministers Teresa Bellanova and Stefano Patuanelli, was finally published in the Official Gazette. (3) The text consists of three articles, through which the period of application of the same decrees is extended from Dec. 31.12.20 to Dec. 31.12.21. Which, respectively, had provided for the mandatory indication – on the label of products made and sold in Italy – of the origin of:

– wheat and semolina in pasta (DM 26.7.17),

– paddy rice in rice (DM 26.7.17),

– tomatoes in related preserves (as well as in sauces and gravies containing at least 50 percent by weight. DM 16.11.17).

Illegitimacy ab origine

Reference is made to the previous article on this decree to point out that it is not possible to extend the effectiveness of decrees that are inapplicable ab origine.

The wheat and rice origin decrees, as noted at the time, had indeed been signed by then ministers Maurizio Martina and Carlo Calenda after deliberately-and illegitimately-disrupting the consultation procedure in Brussels. The favorable outcome of which, which has not occurred through political arbitrariness to this day unpunished, is a sine qua non for the applicability of national technical standards. (2)

As for the origin of the tomato, Maurizio Martina and Carlo Calenda had even failed to notify the European Commission of the draft decree. Although the relevant obligation has been in force since 1983 and is known (or at least should be) even to the youngest ministerial employees.

Illegitimacy ab origine of the three original decrees – due to blatant conflict with the TFEU (Treaty for the Functioning of the European Union) and the common rules requiring prior notification to Brussels of national technical standards – certainly cannot be remedied a posteriori by a decree extending their period of application. (3)

Interim conclusions

The indication of origin or provenance of the primary ingredient, when other than Made in declared, must be disclosed on the labels of all food products placed in the Single Market. As of 1.4.20, based on the reg. EU 2018/775. Albeit without any level of precision (and that is why the said regulation was renamed OPT, Origin Planet Earth).

Thus, an additional cause of illegality is added to Decree 1.4.20. Reg. EU 1169/11, in Article 38 (National Provisions), in fact prohibits the overlap of national rules with the Food Information Regulation, in the parts harmonized therein.

‘As to matters expressly harmonized by this Regulation, Member States may neither adopt nor maintain national provisions except where Union law so authorizes.’

In light of the above, the manifest illegality of Interministerial Decree 1.4.20 is evident. Indeed, it is worth reiterating how public officials must refrain from applying this decree, precisely because the fateful three-origin pasta, rice and tomato-were published in defiance of EU rules. (4) Otherwise exposing themselves to the real risk of being themselves subjected to investigation for abuse of office.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) Interministerial Decree (MiSE and MiPAAF) 1.4.20. Extension of mandatory origin labeling provisions for durum wheat semolina pasta, rice, and tomato products. In Official Gazette General Series 8.7.20 no. 170

(2) Reference is made to the case law of the European Court of Justice reported in the previous article https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/idee/decreti-origine-pasta-riso-pomodoro-sede-stabilimento-incertezze-e-pericoli

(3) Dario Dongo. Food Regulations and Enforcement in Italy. Reference Module in Food Science, Elsevier, 2019. ISBN 9780081005965. https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-100596-5.21172-4.
http://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/B9780081005965211724

(4) NB: European rules, in the hierarchy of sources of law, rank above even Italian constitutional rules

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