Primary ingredient origin, winners and losers


Lo European Commission’s draft regulation on theindication of d’

of the

primary ingredient

consolidates the victory of

Big Food

On European agriculture and consumers. Let’s see why, with a series of cases practical.

– Case 1, Italian sounding (or French sounding) on products made in other countries

In cases of fake ‘
Made in

— that is, products that by words, images or symbols, including through their respective trademarks, suggest provenance from a country other than the country of production — the latter must be indicated on the label.

For example, Kraft’s ‘Miracles’ pasta and sauces, which suggest ‘Italian-ness’ complete with tricolor, must be marked ‘Made in Germany‘ . The same goes for Campbell’s ‘Prego’ and Mars’ ‘ Dolmio’ branded products, which Italy has not even seen on a postcard.

At least in theory, since in fact there is no record of any sanctions against the aforementioned giants, nor the many others who speculate and continue to deceive consumers with fake ‘Made in’ products. (1)

– Case 2, Italian sounding (or French sounding) on products actually made in the suggested country but with primary ingredient of different origin

Where the origin of the product is declared, but it does not coincide with the origin of the primary ingredient, the latter must be declared. Or in any case, the diversity of origins must be specified (e.g., ‘Italian ham with German pork’). This is the rule contained in EU Regulation 1169/11, in Article 26.2

However, the European Commission has excluded the registered trademarks From the application of this rule. And so, it will be sufficient to concentrate the suggestion of a product’s nationality within a trademark to circumvent the requirement to indicate the different origin of the primary ingredient.

As a result, the different origin of the primary ingredient (e.g., the German leg of a ham) may be concealed on the labels of products bearing an ‘Italian sounding’ label, and related tricolor. Even if the trademark registration is after the entry into force of the regulation under consideration.

– Case 3, PGI and other protected geographical indications

Thanks to the exclusion of PGIs-and any other protected geographical indication (2)-from the implementing regulation on the obligation to indicate the different origin of the primary ingredient on foods whose origin is claimed, it will be possible to continue to hide the origin of the raw material.

Examples, Bresaola della Valtellina IGP may keep the origin of the beef used (generally from Brazilian zebu) a secret. Likewise for Pizzoccheri della Valtellina IGP, if even the buckwheat used comes from China. And South Tyrolean Speck PGI, commonly made from German (or other countries’) pigs.

– Case 4, Italian products already subject to mandatory indication of origin of raw materials

Obligations applied so far in Italy – with regard to the indication of origin of wheat and semolina in pasta, milk in dairy products, rice, tomatoes in their preserves – will automatically lose effectiveness, as of the date of application of the European regulation implementing Article 26.2 of the Food Information Regulation (EU reg. 1169/11). (3)

Italian operators (industries, SMEs, large retailers on private label products) who have had to adjust their production, raw material storage and labeling procedures for tens of thousands of references in recent months will be able to return to the old ways. Wasted investments, procedures and time.

The goal stated in the aforementioned decrees-that of providing accurate information regarding the origin of raw materials used on different categories of products-is thus going to hell once and for all, much to everyone’s commitments and expectations.

The origin of the primary ingredient will have to come declared only if the origin of the product is boasted outside the registered trademark, in the trade information, and it is different from that of the prevailing raw material (>50%).

Its indication moreover may come in the most general terms ever. Up to the ‘EU and non-EU’ paradox, i.e. ‘planet Earth origin. Subtracting from the levels of precision that had been assumed in earlier drafts of the regulation, moreover in line with the Italian decrees.

Winners and losers

The winner is undoubtedly
Big Food
. Big industry processing food with a purely financial logic, as if it were bolts or paint. Which buys raw materials where it is most convenient from time to time, and wants to keep consumers in the dark.

An opaque industry secretly working in the rooms of Brussels, with the servile support of the Commission, to deny consumers the rights granted to them by the European legislature. (4) This opacity is certainly useful to Big Food, just remember that Kraft is the world’s leading producer of Parmesan, which has never been produced in the Po Valley, let alone from the milk of Reggio Emilia cows.

In the opposite direction to the growing sensitivity of consumAtors to the transparency of information about food and its supply chains. And so, while the most careful operators work on blockchain to better ensure traceability, the smart ones believe they can take advantage of secret conveniences. And it is unfortunate that many Italian industrialists fall for the rhetoric of Big Food, not realizing that they themselves will be swept away by it.

The losers are consumers, once again mocked by Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis who tramples on their rights to do the bidding of big lobbies. (5) In this case, note well, exceeding the limits of the delegation given by the European legislature. (6) With the greater shame of misrepresenting the rules to mask the blatant violation of the rule to be implemented. (7)

The role of Ministers Maurizio Martina and Carlo Calenda in all this remains to be clarified. Who, with the blessing of Coldiretti, have been carrying on the sham of ‘planned obsolescence’ decrees for a couple of years. By forcing European procedures on the due notification to Brussels of draft national regulations, they have simultaneously deluded voters about decrees of origin and forced Italian industries to comply in a hurry.

They knew well, the ministers and Coldiretti, that the decrees on the origin of milk, pasta, rice and tomatoes would be short-lived. And now, as if that were not enough, they are passively witnessing the nullification of that albeit basic European requirement on the indication of origin of the primary ingredient.

Dario Dongo


(1) See reg. EU 1169/11, Article 26.3. On closer inspection, competence over official public controls is left to the authorities of individual member states. And they are unlikely to sanction industry groups that produce employment and wealth on their home territories, when even they mislead their respective consumers (e.g., by resorting to Italian sounding or French soundingsonproducts made in Germany or England or Eastern countries, as is often the case)

(2) Under EU regulations on quality schemes, the CMO (Common Market Organization), spirits and liqueurs, flavored wines, and even international agreements(e.g., CETA


(3) By virtue of special provisions contained in each of the aforementioned decrees.

(4) The reg. EU 1169/11 – in Article 26.2, which the Commission is to implement in accordance with the delegation received – requires that the origin or provenance of the primary ingredient be disclosed on the label where it is not the same as the origin of the food. The rule in question does not provide any exemption, neither for registered trademarks nor for geographical indications

(5) Recall the


of Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, on combating food fraud

and on the definitions of vegetarian and vegan foods

. Not to mention the more serious omission of official acts, in relation to the carcinogenic and genotoxic contaminants that palm Contains 6-10 times the amount of other refined vegetable fats

(6) See Note 4

(7) To exclude registered trademarks from the rule to be implemented, Commission in fact invokes the provision of Article 26.3. Which simply prescribes the obligation to cite the origin of the product when its presentation-even because of the brand name used, as the Commissioner himself has already clarified – may mislead the consumer in this regard. In relation to this rule, moreover, it should be noted, there is no provision for the adoption of implementing acts (as alleged by the Commission in the draft regulation under consideration)

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