European Union Adopts New Rules for Primary Ingredient Labeling on Food Products
Country of origin labeling for foods may mislead consumers if the primary ingredient originates elsewhere. To rectify this, the European Union (EU) is implementing new rules that must be applied from April 1, 2020.
On May 28, 2018, the EU adopted Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775. This delineates the rules for the application of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 regarding primary food ingredient labeling.
Regulation No 1169/2011
Article 26 of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 requires food operatives to indicate the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient of a foodstuff. This is mandatory, when by omitting the information a consumer might be misled (Point 2.a). Point 3 requires the food business operator to provide a food’s country of origin and, where this differs of the food’s primary ingredient, “either the country of origin of the primary ingredient or an indication that the country of origin of the primary ingredient is different to the country of origin of the food.”
The regulation defines ‘country of origin’ as:
“Goods wholly obtained in a single country or territory shall be regarded as having their origin in that country or territory and goods the production of which involves more than one country or territory shall be deemed to originate in the country or territory where they underwent their last, substantial, economically justified processing or working, in an undertaking equipped for that purpose, resulting in the manufacture of a new product or representing an important stage of manufacture.”
‘Primary ingredient’ is defined as:
“An ingredient or ingredients of a food that represent more than 50% of that food or which are usually associated with the name of the food by the consumer.”
Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775
To enforce EU Regulation No 1169/2011, Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775 came into force on June 1, 2018, and will be applicable from April 1, 2020. This provides stakeholders with clarification on how the origin of primary ingredients should be labeled when it is different from the given origin of the food.
(EU) 2018/775 states that the country of origin or the place of provenance of the primary ingredient, when it differs from the same information for the food, shall be given:
a) With reference to one of the following geographical areas:
- ‘EU’, ‘non-EU’ or ‘EU and non-EU’; or
- Region, or any other geographical area either within several Member States or within third countries, if defined as such under public international law or well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
- FAO Fishing area, or sea or freshwater body if defined as such under international law or well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
- Member State(s) or third country(ies); or
- Region, or any other geographical area within a Member State or within a third country, which is well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
- The country of origin or place of provenance in accordance with specific Union provisions applicable for the primary ingredient(s) as such
b) Or by means of a statement as follows:
- (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
This will provide consumers with a high level of transparency on the origin of their food products. It will also help to harmonize the presentation of this information, whilst allowing a certain level of flexibility for food business operators in order to consider the various processing methods involved in the production of their food products. Isotope analysis can be used to help verify geographical origin claims as discussed in our previous article “Verification Of Geographical Origin By Stable Isotope Analysis”.