Origin labelling in EU/GB: key information to determine
With various pieces of legislation governing origin labelling, and the regulations difficult to understand, companies can inadvertently mislead consumers with their product labels. In this week’s blog, we take a look at country-of-origin labelling, give examples to help interpret the regulations, and outline three key things food business operators need to determine when identifying what needs to be included on their labels.
In the EU and GB, Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 on Food Information to Consumers (FIC) identifies the origin of a food as being either its ‘country of origin’ or ‘place of provenance’.
‘Country of origin’ is defined as the location or region from which the goods were obtained. When products are manufactured in more than one country, the country of origin is determined as the country or territory where the last substantial, economically justified processing occurred.
‘Place of provenance’ is any place where a food is indicated to come from that is not the country of origin.
For many foods, providing the origin information is voluntary. Unless required under a specific rule, indicating the country of origin or place of provenance is only mandatory for prepacked products when its absence is likely to mislead consumers.
Mandatory origin labelling
In the EU and GB, it’s mandatory to indicate the origin on food products including fruit and vegetables; fishery products; honey; olive oil; eggs; beef and beef products; frozen poultry meat; unprocessed meat of swine, sheep goat, and poultry; and natural mineral water. Each of these food products have their own Regulation and/or Directive, complemented by Regulation (EU) 1169/2011.
For some products, it may be sufficient to simply declare the country of origin, for example Italy for olive oil. Where it gets complicated is when multiple processes must be declared, for example beef products which can require origin information for where the animal is born, reared and slaughtered.
Country of origin
In addition to the above mandatory requirements for specific food groups, Article 26 of Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 declares that the country of origin of the food shall be mandatory where a failure to indicate this might mislead the consumer as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of the food.
For example, to indicate authentic characteristics, the packaging for croissants may depict the colours of the French flag. However, if the product was not made in France, but say in Spain, the true origin would need to be stated and the label carry the following statement: ‘Made in Spain’.
Where the country of origin or place of provenance of the food is given, and it is not the same country as that of its primary ingredient; then the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient shall either be given or shall be indicated as being different to that of the food.
For example, a Lancashire hotpot is a traditional British dish made with the primary ingredient lamb. If it were made with New Zealand lamb, a manufacturer would need to label the product ‘Lancashire Hotpot. Made with New Zealand Lamb.’
Key information to determine
Origin labelling can be complex. If a product falls under mandatory origin labelling requirements, or if the absence of declaring the origin is likely to mislead consumers, the next steps are to determine:
- The point where the product has most value added
- Where the majority of the ingredients in the recipe originate from
- Where the primary ingredient comes from
This information will then drive what needs to be included on the product label.