Origin, from smoke and mirrors to action in EU, the way forward

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One learns with curiosity how the government of ‘change’-like previous ones of all faiths and colors-has carried out Coldiretti’s orders on the subject of origin labeling of raw materials. Once again, however, the regulatory instrument is inadequate and illegitimate. Smoke in the eye, fake news. To protect Made in Italy against counterfeiting and Italian sounding we need to take action at the EU level, here’s how.

‘Simplifications’ decree, origin labeling. Text analysis

In the so-called ‘simplifications’ decree, ironically, a rule has been included that introduces new complexities and contrasts with EU law, on the subject of origin labelling. (1) Above all-unlike what is falsely communicated by politics and the mainstream media-the predictions on origin labeling lack any concreteness. We proceed to examine the text, to put an end to the giant misunderstanding. Like Massimo Troisi in the famous film, ‘Groundhog DayThree‘.

1) ‘
By decree
of the Minister of Agricultural Food, Forestry and Tourism Policies, in consultation with the Minister of Economic Development and the Minister of Health, after agreement with the Unified Conference (…), after consultation with the most representative organizations at the national level in the sectors of agri-food production and processing and having acquired the opinions of the competent parliamentary committees, after completion of the notification procedure referred to in Article 45 of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 (…) are defined, for the purposes set out in paras. b), (c) and (d) of paragraph 1 of Article 39 of the same regulation [consumer protection, fraud prevention, protection of intellectual property rights and indications of source, ed.] the cases in which the indication of place of origin is mandatory.’ (New Paragraph 3, to be inserted in Article 4 of Law 4/11. See footnote 2)

In fact, the Parliament delegates the government to define in which cases additional mandatory information (compared to that established in the EU) may be added on the labels of only Made in Italy products destined for the domestic market. For needs related to consumer protection, fraud prevention, protection of intellectual property rights.

The government, in agreement with the State-Regions Conference, may proceed to adopt appropriate legislative decrees following a special procedure:

– Consultation with industry representatives and relevant parliamentary committees,

– Prior notification to the European Commission (and suspension of activities, pending the green light from Brussels).

2) ‘
By the decree
referred to in Paragraph 3 are identified the specific categories of food for which the requirement of the indication of place of origin is established. Pursuant to Article 39(2) of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, the Ministry of Agriculture, Food, Forestry and Tourism, in collaboration with the Institute of Services for the Agricultural Food Market (ISMEA), shall ensure that special studies are carried out aimed at identifying the presence of a proven link between certain food qualities and their origin as well as assessing the extent to which the indication regarding the place of origin is perceived as significant and when its omission is recognized as misleading. The results of the consultations carried out and the studies performed shall be made public and forwarded to the European Commission together with the notification of the decree referred to in paragraph 3.’

If the government intends to introduce at the national level new obligations to indicate the origin or provenance of raw materials, on the labels of one or more specific categories of Made in Italy products destined for the national territory, it will have to justify this measure with appropriate studies. Turning to ISMEA (MiPAAFT), to show that:



– there is a link between the quality of a food (e.g., legumes



, wheat



) and its origin or provenance,

– Italians place actual value on information regarding the origin or provenance of such foods. (3)

Such conditions are indeed prescribed by the ‘Food Information Regulation,’ according to which ‘member states may introduce provisions concerning the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of foods only where there is a proven link between certain qualities of the food and its origin or provenance. When notifying such provisions to the Commission, member states shall provide evidence that most consumers place significant value on the provision of such information‘ (EU reg. 1169/11, art. 39.2).

3) ‘
The indication of the place of origin
is always compulsory, according to Article 26(2)(a) of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, when the conditions of Article 1 of Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775 of May 28, 2018 are met.

It repeats what is already stipulated in the ‘Food Information Regulation‘, in the part that requires the country of origin or place of provenance to be indicated on the label ‘where the omission of such a statement is likely to mislead the consumer as to the food’s actual country of origin or place of provenance, particularly if the information accompanying the food or contained on the label as a whole might otherwise suggest that the food has a different country of origin or place of provenance‘ (EU reg. 1169/11, Article 26.2.a).




Instead, one should have reinforced




the concept by explaining that the obligation to specify origin or provenance also occurs when the suggestion of an origin other than the real one is offered through text or images contained in a registered trademark (a great classic in the so-called




Italian sounding


. See, e.g., the tricolor mark ‘Miracles‘ of Kraft Foods). Based on an interpretation that this very writer was able to obtain from Commissioner Vytenis Andriukaitis, by written question signed by Elisabetta Gardini.

‘The dissimilarity between the country of origin or the actual place of origin of the food and that evoked by the affixing of information referred to in the aforementioned Article 1 of Regulation (EU) 2018/775, even if the provisions of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, is a violation of Article 7 of the same Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, on fair information practices‘.

The Italian legislature thus prohibits any kind of evocation of country of origin and/or place of origin other than the actual ones, regardless of whether these are specified on the label. A very interesting stance, which would instantly outlaw numerous products (e.g., “I’m not going to ban you”). Valsugana polenta from corn of uncertain origin, Canadian lentils of Colfiorito). It is only a pity that this is an unenforceable rule because it is in blatant conflict with the European regulation to which it refers.

‘Simplifications’ decree, origin labeling. Conclusions

No new obligation to indicate the origin of products and/or the provenance of their raw materials was introduced in the conversion law of the ‘simplification decree’. Contrary to what is falsely reported in Coldiretti and institutional press releases, the fateful ‘I’m starting over from three’ in fact merely delegates the government to consider introducing new obligations in this regard. Which may be established in the future, for specific foods or their categories, through legislative decrees (by virtue of the aforementioned delegation of powers), without the need to resort to ordinary laws. Such decrees must in any case meet the requirements set by the ‘Food Information Regulation‘:

– Evidence of the link between quality and origin or provenance,

– evidence of interest to consumers in knowing such news,

– prior notification of each decree to the European Commission and waiting for clearance from Brussels before finalizing thelegislative process.

The only new element is the prohibition against evoking an origin or provenance other than the real one, when even the latter is specified on the label. However, this prohibition intervenes in a case already otherwise regulated by the ‘Food Information Regulation‘ and is therefore inapplicable. All the more so since the current government, like its predecessors, has also failed to duly notify Brussels.

And it is ‘curious’ that no one has taken care of this not insignificant detail:

– nor the stolid politicians who signed ‘with their eyes closed’ in Montecitorio and Palazzo Madama what Coldiretti ordered,

– nor the diligent Quirinal, from which even the order to strike out numerous amendments to the ‘simplification decree’ (e.g., support measures for Apulian farmers afflicted by recent frost) had originated, because of hypothetical questions of ‘constitutional legitimacy,

– nor finally, ça va sans dir, by a generalist and trade press that like a broken record keeps repeating fake news.

Food origin and raw materials, the way forward

Coldiretti must change strategy. 15 years of lively debates on the subject have served to raise awareness among citizens and practitioners of the essential value ofsupply chain integrity on the ground, in Italy and Europe. But one cannot go on with unenforceable national measures, remembering that the first pre-infringement procedure dates back to Alemanno’s time (Law 204/04, Article 1-bis), the one in the pipeline will have the Calenda and Gentiloni labels.

Action must now be taken at the EU level, with the utmost determination. The time is ripe and the broad support so far garnered by the brilliant initiative #EatORIGINal! Unmask your food! – which garners our passionate support-provides brilliant evidence of this. Ettore Prandini may prove to be the right man at the right time to work on the European chessboard. With the support of French farmers who, it will be recalled, already in 2002 managed to get the green light from Brussels on the mandatory origin of meat (both on the labels of food products that contain it, e.g., hams and sausages, and on restaurant menus). (4)

You have to take the bull by the horns. First, notify the European Commission of a formal request to fulfill its duty within two months to end the scandal of trademarks evocative of false origin of food products. Brussels should have already done so, according to the scandalous ‘Planet Earth Origin‘ regulation., OPT. (5) After the deadline has expired, in the event of further inaction by Brussels, a so-called ‘action for failure to act’ can be filed with the Court of Justice within the following two months. (6) We confirm in this regard our availability for any technical-legal, information and


stakeholders building




.

The next European Commission must then be called upon to do what the one headed by Jean Claude Junker has wilfully failed to do, despite repeated reminders from the Strasbourg Assembly. (7) That is, adopt appropriate proposals for regulations to introduce EU-wide requirements to label the origin of raw materials on:

– Meat used in the preparation of other products (e.g. hams and salami, lasagna, meat sauce, etc.),

– unprocessed foods, single-ingredient products, ingredients that make up more than 50 percent of a food (the OPT regulation will thus be superseded),

– milk, sold as such and as an ingredient in products,

– Meats of hitherto unknown origin (e.g. Equines, hares and rabbits, game, ostriches, insects

(8) when allowed as




Novel Food




).

It will be essential to ensure in these regulations that the level of geographic precision (e.g., national, regional, territorial) prescribed for communicating the origin or provenance of raw materials is the same as that used to designate the origin of products.

Coldiretti will finally have to break free from ideological dependence on Ferrero, stop fighting international health policies designed to mitigate obesity, and reconnect with ConsumAtors who demand healthy foods, as the earth has always provided. Therefore, enhance the products of first industrial processing, on a par with fruits and vegetables, also from the point of view of nutritional and health prerogatives.

Dario Dongo

Notes

(1) The rule in question was included, in the form of an amendment, in the text converting the decree-law into the appropriate parliamentary law. V. ‘Conversion into law, with amendments, of Decree-Law Dec. 14, 2018, no. 135, on urgent provisions on support and simplification for enterprises and public administration

‘, at




http://www.senato.it/leg/18/BGT/Schede/Ddliter/testi/51070_testi.htm




(2) The text of the amendment is available at




http://www.senato.it/service/PDF/PDFServer/BGT/01098486.pdf


(3) The ‘country of origin’ is the country where the product was entirely manufactured. When processing has taken place on more than one national territory, the origin is identified in the country where the last substantial processing was carried out (so, for example, the origin of a semolina milled in Italy is Italian, even if the wheat comes from another country).

Instead, ‘place of provenance’ is ‘any place indicated as where the food comes from, but which is not the “country of origin”‘ (see EU reg. 1169/11, Article 2)



(4) See note 4 to the previous article




https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/origine-carni-bovine-al-ristorante-lo-schema-di-decreto-legge-del-consorzio-l-italia-zootecnica-analisi-di-dettaglio_1


(5) See reg. EU 2018/775

(6) Cf. TFUE 265, 266



(7) See previous articles




https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/approfondimenti_1/etichettatura-d-origine-prosegue-il-dibattito-tra-commissione-e-parlamento-europeo




,




https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/approfondimenti_1/origine-del-latte-le-risoluzione-di-strasburgo


(8) Insect farming could enable many farmers, with relatively modest investments and commitments in small covered spaces, to realize useful margins to offset the lower profitability of some traditional crops. It is precisely in Italy, by the way, that one of the first


start-up




which has developed highly automated production modules for cricket farming




https://www.cuneocronaca.it/farina-di-grilli-allevati-a-bra-nuova-frontiera-del-cibo-raggiunta-da-due-giovani


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