Tomato origin, decree expired

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A few days before the general election, the tomato origin decree has popped up in the Official Gazette. As timely as the miracle of San Gennaro and instead as false, unfortunately, as its signatories. An expired decree built to lose effectiveness before it even took effect. As well as illegitimate. Yet another

bluff


.

Tomato, pasta and rice origin. Bluff. The great deception

DM 16.11.17,
Indication of the origin on the label of tomatoes
, was published in the Official Gazette on 26.2.18. (1) It should go into effect on 8/26/2018, 180 instead of 120 days after publication as originally planned. With authority for operators to dispose of products packaged by that date with labels that do not comply with it.

The effectiveness of the interministerial decree will in any case fail – by express provision of planned obsolescence – As of the entry into force of the European Commission Regulation on the manner of indicating the origin of the primary ingredient, if different from the Made in declared. (2) Regulation that Commissioner Vytenis.

Andriukaitis



has promised within the next few months, and will exclude the brands




Italian Sounding




from the obligation to indicate the origin of the essential raw material (that which accounts for at least 50 percent of the product).

The great deception – put in place by the (soon to be former) ministers Maurizio Martina e Charles Calenda, in conjunction with the current leadership of some agricultural confederations and the main press organs – consists in making Italian citizens believe that the decrees on the origin of pasta, rice and tomato may produce effects on Italian food labels. A false statement, for at least three reasons:

  1. the above decrees are unlawful. In that they deliberately failed to notify the European Commission, as they should have. (3) And consequently lacking the indispensable green light from Brussels-after consultation with the member states, in a period of prior suspension of thelegislative process (so-called stanstill period)-to their implementation. Hence the obligation of administrative and judicial authorities to disapply the relevant rules, even if formally in force, because they were enacted contrary to European law,
  2. products made and/or packaged elsewhere are excluded from the scope of the decrees. (4) On the basis of the inviolable principle of free movement, even products made in Italy and marketed in the Internal Market through trading companies based in another member state could be removed from the application of the rules,
  3. the programmed obsolescence of the Italian decrees on origin means that they will in any case fall as soon as the European regulation on the origin of the primary ingredient comes into force. Which could happen within a few weeks or a few months of their albeit illegitimate implementation in Italy.

Tomato origin, a lost opportunity

The tomato origin decree, for the aforementioned reasons, is without any chance of concrete implementation. However, it is worth recalling its contents, ad maiora, since they are widely shared by supply chain representatives (primary agricultural production, canning industry, distribution, consumers).

Some elements could then be taken up both in a technical standard to be submitted for certification, to enhance the ‘red’ supply chain Made in Italy (to which special provisions on integrated agriculture and socio-environmental sustainability of production should be added), both in a future bill to be submitted to the dutiful procedure of notification to Brussels. And why not, with a view to an EU-wide reform project.

Background. Reg. EU 1169/2011, Food Information Regulation, and reg. EU 952/2013, Customs Code. As well as Law 154/2016, ‘Provisions on products derived from tomato processing‘ (Articles 23-26) and DM 4387/2017, which defines the ‘minimum quality requirements for tomato processing products.

Scope. The decree should be applied ‘only to the following prepackaged food products intended for the final consumer:

(a) tomato derivatives referred to in Art. 24 of Law 154/2016;

(b) prepared tomato-based sauces and gravies (covered by Customs Code 20132000), obtained by mixing one or more of the derivatives referred to in (a) with other products of plant or animal origin, at least 50 percent of the total net weight of which consists of the derivatives referred to in a).

The indication of origin on the labels of the above products ‘provides for the use on the label of the words:

(a) Tomato growing country: name of the country where the tomato was grown;

(b) Tomato processing country: name of the country where the tomato was processed‘.

Origin. ‘Where the tomato used (…) has been grown and processed entirely in a single country, the indication of origin may provide for the use of only the words: Origin of the tomato: name of the country.’

Where cultivation and/or processing of tomatoes has taken place in more than one country, the indications’EU‘, ‘non-EU’, ‘EU and non-EU‘ should still be allowed. Thus bordering on the ridiculous, ‘planet earth origin.’

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) V. DM 16.11.17, Indication of origin on tomato labels, on http://www.gazzettaufficiale.it/atto/serie_generale/caricaDettaglioAtto/originario?atto.dataPubblicazioneGazzetta=2018-02-26&atto.codiceRedazionale=18A01366&elenco30giorni=false

(2) ‘When the country of origin or place of provenance of a food is indicated and is not the same as that of its primary ingredient :

(a) the country of origin or place of origin of that primary ingredient is also indicated; or

(b) the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient is indicated as being different from that of the food‘ (EU reg. 1169/11, Article 26.3)

(3) European rules on the subject-which in the hierarchy of sources of law have a superordinate role not only with respect to acts of secondary legislation (such as the interministerial decrees in question) but also with respect to Italian constitutional laws, according to established case law-are contained in dir. 2015/1535/EU (TRIS, Technical Regulation Information System Database). As well as in reg. EU 1169/11, Article 45, regarding rules on consumer information on food products

(4) The so-called principle of mutual recognition, in the Pasta and Rice Origin Decrees, excludes products from other European Economic Area (EEA) countries and Turkey. The DM 16.11.17 on tomato origin, on the other hand, excludes any product made in any other country in the world (EU and non-EU). In tribute to the Chinese tomato, as well as those in the MENA(Middle East North Africa) region.

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