Foods labels to become more clear

Author: Monika Alisauske, Lawyer

  • Does the information on food labels confuse?
  • European Commission will prevent from misleading
  • Regulation – not for all food goods

The country of origin or the place of provenance of foods vs the country of origin or the place of provenance of the primary ingredient of a food: the new Regulation changes the rules for the provision of food information to consumers.

Given the large choice of foods, consumers choose their foods very thoroughly and carefully. When choosing their foods, consumers pay attention not only to the individual packaging designs, different trademarks or exceptional slogans but also to the additional information about the product as such provided on the packaging, i.e. statements, clarifications, various symbols which provide consumers with more information about the product itself, its characteristics and the country of origin or the place of provenance as well as make it easier for the consumer to decide about the most appropriate product.

In the end of May of this year (28 May 2018) the European Commission adopted the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775 (hereinafter “the Regulation”) laying down rules for the application of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council on the provision of food information to consumers, as regards the rules for indicating the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient of food. The main aim of the Regulation is to lay down the rules preventing misleading food information on food packaging which implies a certain origin or provenance of a food, when in fact its true country of origin or place of provenance is different.

grocery cart with item

Photo by Oleg Magni on Pexels.com

The regulation provided for under the Regulation applies when the information about the country of origin or the place of provenance indicated on the packaging is given mandatorily or voluntarily in accordance with the effective regulation, or through any indication such as statements, terms, pictorial presentation or symbols but it differs from the country of origin or the place of provenance of the primary ingredient. In such circumstances, it is required to give the country of origin or the place of provenance of the primary ingredient(s), or indicate that the country of origin or the place of provenance thereof differs from that of the food product.

However, it is important to note that the regulation does not extend to customary and generic names including geographic terms that literally indicate origin, but whose common understanding is not an indication of origin or place of provenance of the food, for example, Béchamel sauce. Also, it does not cover protected geographical indications or registered trademarks where the latter constitute an origin indication.

The Regulation also provides a list of means for indicating the country of origin or the place of provenance of a primary ingredient which is not the same as the given country of origin or the given place of provenance of the food:

  1. with reference to one of the following geographical areas: ‘EU’, ‘non-EU’ or ‘EU and non-EU’;
  2. with reference to a region, or any other geographical area either within the several Member States or within third countries;
  3. with reference to an FAO Fishing area, or sea or freshwater body;
  4. with reference to a Member State(s) or a third country(ies);
  5. with reference to a region, or any other geographical area within a Member State or within a third country;
  6. with reference to the country of origin or the place of provenance in accordance with specific Union provisions applicable for the primary ingredient(s) as such.

Instead of using the above labelling, food manufacturers also have the right to provide a statement: ‘(name of the primary ingredient) do/does not originate from (the country of origin or the place of provenance of the food)’ or any similar wording likely to have the same meaning for the consumer.

Food manufacturers should also note that the Regulation lays down requirements for providing information applicable to indications of the name of the primary ingredient: the information shall appear in the same field of vision as the indication of the country of origin or the place of provenance of the food and by using a font size which has an x-height of at least 75% of the x-height of the indication of the country of origin or the place of provenance of the food. Where the country of origin or the place of provenance of a food is given by means of non-scriptural form, the information about the primary ingredient shall appear in the same field of vision as the indication of the country of origin or the place of provenance of the food

It has to be noted that the Regulation and the rules laid down therein shall apply from 1 April 2020. However, it shall not apply to the foods placed on the market or labelled prior to the date of application of the Regulation until the stocks are exhausted.

Although the new regulation will raise many questions to food manufacturers, for example, whether the primary ingredient of a food is defined as one or more ingredients of the same product, which the European Commission should answer by the date of application of the Regulation, at the same time, the new regulation should provide consumers with more and clearer information about the food they buy, and help prevent the probability of misleading the customers.

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