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EU Taken by Surprise with Italian Introduction of Mandatory Origin Labelling of Pasta and Rice

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Italy has published two draft decrees regarding mandatory origin labelling of certain food products. The measures, published in the official gazette of 16 and 17 August, will enter into force in February 2018. In essence, it obliges the indication of origin of the durum wheat used on the labelling of durum wheat pasta, and the indication of origin of rice on the labelling of rice.

Manufacturers are awarded a standstill period of 180 days to amend their packaging to the new labelling rules. Though manufacturers hope to be able to prevent the introduction of the new rules relying on European internal market rules. Food industry associations, including the influential FoodDrinkEurope, have directed themselves to the European Commission in order to halt the new labelling obligation. They claim the introduced rules will hamper free trade among European member states. On the other hand, supporters, being Italy based producers and associations, claim the rules increase transparency for consumers. The argue that many of food products currently claim to be made in Italy while essentially the basic compounds of the products originate from third countries. This is deceiving and therefore is contrary to the intentions of European food labelling legislation.

European Union Commission officials indicate that the Italian Decrees were adopted without their knowledge. The Italian government had not officially notified according to the EU TRIS-notification system. The latter requires EU member states to forward anticipated acts which may have a disruptive effect on the European single market. Considering the harmonized extent of labelling legislation, this is rather remarkable. Though, the Commission also indicates the situation of origin labelling of durum wheat for durum wheat pasta is different from country of origin indication for food products under the EU Food Information to Consumers-Regulation. The Italian Decree on the labelling of durum wheat for durum wheat pasta requires the labelling of the country of origin for the primary ingredient and not the food itself. As Italian groups indicate, they aim to prevent packages to be misleading where they indicate the products to be made in Italy, where in fact the primary ingredient originates from another country. Note that under European rules were the origin of the primary ingredient of a food is different from the origin of that food itself and the latter country is labelled, the origin of the primary ingredient needs to be included as well.

Accordingly, it remains to be seen how the adopted Italian decrees are to be considered in the light of existing European rules.

Source (only available in Italian):

Gazzetta Ufficiale of 17 August 2017
; including the DECRETO 26 July 2017 on the indication of origin in the labelling of durum wheat of durum wheat pasta.

Gazzetta Ufficiale of 16 August 2017
; including the DECRETO 26 July 2017 on the indication of origin in the labelling of rice.


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