Tomato origin. The text of the decree

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Tomato origin. A few days after theannouncement of the Minister for Agricultural Policies Maurizio Martina at the Coldiretti Forum in Cernobbio, here is the text of the ‘interministerial decree concerning the indication of origin on the label of tomatoes‘, in summary below.

Background

A reference is made to reg. EU 11169/2011, so-called Food Information Regulation, and reg. EU 952/2013, the latest update of the European Union Customs Code. As well as Law 154/2016, on ‘Provisions on products derived from tomato processing‘ (Articles 23-26) and DM 4387/2017, which determines the ‘minimum quality requirements for tomato processing products‘.

Scope of application

The decree appliesonly 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).

This is without prejudice to the criterion of acquiring origin under current European regulations‘ (Article 1, Scope).

On the other hand, products ‘legally manufactured or marketed in another EU member state or in a third country‘ are exempt from the decree (Article 6, mutual recognition clause).

Indication of origin to be stated on the label

The indication of origin 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’.

Where the tomato used for the products referred to in Art. 1 paragraph 1 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‘ (Article 2, indications of origin to be stated on the label).

In cases where tomatoes are grown and/or processed in the territories of one or more countries, the terms ‘EU’, ‘non-EU’, ‘EU and non-EU’ may be used as appropriate (Article 3, labeling in the case of growing tomatoes in more than one country).

Readability and public information

Claims about the origin of the tomato, as is obvious, must be ‘indelible and written on the label in a prominent place so as to be easily visible and clearly readable. They should in no way be hidden, obscured, restricted or separated from other written or graphic indications or other elements likely to interfere. The same indications are printed in characters whose median part (x-height), defined in Annex IV of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 (…) is not less than 1.2 millimeters.’

The Ministry of Agricultural Food and Forestry Policies, as part of the activities provided for in current legislation, without new and increased burdens on public finance, may [indeed it can, ed.] establish appropriate campaigns to promote the labeling systems provided for in this decree‘ (Article 4, Provisions to promote better consumer information).

Sanctions

For violations of the obligations under Art. 2 paragraphs 1 and 2, the penalties provided for in Art. 18(2) of Leg. January 27, 1992 no. 109‘ (Article 5, applicable penalties). That is, administrative fine ranging from 1,600 to 9,500 euros.

Time effectiveness and transitional period

The decree will come into effect within 120 days after its publication in the Official Gazette. With the option for operators to dispose of products packaged by that date with labels that have not been updated to the new requirements.

The measure will be in effect until Dec. 31, 2020, and will in any case lose effect from the date of entry into force of the European Commission’s long-awaited regulation (1) on the declaration of origin of the primary ingredient (Article 7, transitional and final provisions).

Last note. Brussels was not notified of the measure, as it should have been. (3) The decree is therefore unlawful as are already, for the same reasons, those that prescribed the origin of rice and wheat in pasta. But the European Commission in vogue would be said to be proclivous to laissez-faire.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) 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)

(2) In contrast, the minimum character height for mandatory label information is 0.9 mm if the largest surface area of the package is less than 80 cm2. See http://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/misura-confezioni-e -criteri-di-leggibilità-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(3) Paradoxically, the same government had instead notified Brussels of Interministerial Decree 4387/17 cited in the introduction. See http://ec.europa.eu/growth/tools-databases/tris/e n/search/?trisaction=search.detail&year=2017&num=153