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COMMISSION CIRCULATES NOTICE ON COUNTRY OF ORIGIN INDICATION OF PRIMARY INGREDIENTS

Feb 29, 2020

The Commission Notice further clarifies the application of the requirement to label the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient in the case it is different from the labelled origin of the food. It elaborates on the general requirement under article 26(3) of the Food Information to Consumer Regulation 1169/2011 (hereafter FIC) as well as the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775 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 a food.

Among other questions, the Commission clarifies in the Notice whether certain label indications are viable to trigger the application of article 26(3), including among others details about the food business operator, the brand name, the name of the food or legal names which contain a geographical reference. For example, the Commission indicates that the name and address of a business operator should in principle not be considered an indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of the food which could trigger the origin indication of the primary ingredient. However, depending on the circumstances, for instance where a country as part of the food business operator details is shown very prominently on the labelling and this is different from the origin of the primary ingredient, such labelling practices may be considered misleading. It is the responsibility of the national authorities to consider the conditions case by case.

An indication like ‘made in (country)’, ‘produced in (country)’ or ‘product of (country)’ is more evidently an indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of a food. On the other hand, the indications ‘packed in (country)’ or ‘kind’/’style/’recipe’ followed by a geographical reference the Commission considers, in principle, not to be indications of the country of origin or place of provenance of the food.

The Commission further specifies how to identify which is the primary ingredient. In terms of the qualitative aspect, that according to which the ingredient is usually associated by the consumers with the name of the food, the Commission emphasizes that the expectations of the average consumer should be taken into account. It should be considered whether the ‘origin indication of a particular ingredient is likely to substantially affect consumers’ purchasing decisions and whether the absence of such an origin indication would mislead consumers’.

Furthermore, the Notice clarifies that the implementing Regulation does not foresee that different geographical levels (EU or non-EU, region, country) are given for a primary ingredient. However different geographical levels can be provided as additional voluntary information (e.g. ‘EU and non-EU (Switzerland)’).

In terms of presentation of the origin indication for primary ingredients, the FIC holds that the information should be provided with words and numbers. The Commission argues that abbreviations, such as USA and UK, would be acceptable as long as they are sufficiently understood by consumers. Importantly, the Commission also notes that the indication of the origin of the primary ingredient may need to be repeated for distinct product origin indications, including symbols, on the label as the origin of the primary ingredient must appear in the same field of vision as the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of the food.

Commission Notice on the application of the provisions of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 - link

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