21 June 2021 News

The use of EU Geographical Indications as ingredients

As a result of a research carried out on AREPO member regions and associations of producers, the study on EU Geographical Indications (GIs) used as ingredients in processed products is finally available.

Starting from an analysis of the existing legislation and case law at EU and national level (with a focus on Italy and France as the only EU Member States that have addressed the issue), it aims to provide policy recommendations in order to improve EU legislation concerning labelling of foodstuffs using GIs as ingredients. As a matter of fact, so far there is no mandatory legislation, rather EU guidelines giving some basic and non-binding instructions, while different approaches (or a lack of a formal approach) exist at national level. In the absence of EU and national binding regulation, GI producer groups find themselves without any efficient mean of action to avoid abuse or misuse of their GI.

Hence, the AREPO study intends to fill in this gap and to respond to one of the objectives of the ongoing revision of EU Quality schemes: empowering producer groups also through clarifying labelling rules for processed products using a GI as an ingredient.

Particularly,this report attempts to identify good practices and problems related to the mention of a GI product on the label of a processed product that uses it as an ingredient. Its specific objectives include determining what can (and cannot) be put on the label of a processed product using a GI as an ingredient, as well as what type of control can and should be exercised by GI producer groups over processing industries (of these non-GI products) and to what extent.

To this end, a survey was submitted to GI producer groups from AREPO member Regions and several in-depth interviews have been conducted. One hundred GI producer groups replied to the survey, from six different countries, divided as follows: France (44), Italy (34), Spain (11), Germany (7), Greece (2), and Portugal (2).

The research confirmed that the use of a GI as ingredient in processed products brings several advantages both for the GI itself and for the processed product containing it. However, this is true only if specific conditions concerning quality and controls of the final product are met in order to avoid the damaging and exploitation of GI reputation and to assure fair competition on the market.

In this regard, AREPO recommends the European Commission to introduce binding legislation at EU level starting from the basic principles contained in the EC guidelines.

Furthermore, while it is fundamental to have clear common general principles, in order to create an efficient system, it is also key to empower producer groups. As a consequence, AREPO firmly believes that the European Commission should formally empower producer groups to authorise and regulate the terms under which a GI used as an ingredient can be named in front-of-pack labelling of a processed product. This approach would assure the right flexibility since GI producer groups would be able to adopt balanced criteria in order to assure the protection of the GI, while maintaining constraints for processors at a reasonable level.