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Abstract

As part of its Farm to Fork Strategy, the European Commission is currently working on a reform of the legal framework governing the use of origin labelling on food products. Presented as an obvious way to enhance food transparency and foster more sustainable diets, origin labelling raises however the prospect of new barriers to intra-EU trade and a re-nationalisation of sourcing practices and purchasing behaviour. This contribution introduces some key aspects surrounding the use and usefulness of origin labelling for consumers and offers an overview of the relevant EU legal framework. It addresses and discusses the possible risks that enhanced origin information on food products could raise for the EU single market and argues for a limited reform of existing EU legislation.

1. Introduction

Localism is in vogue, in Europe and elsewhere. For consumers, buying local offers a sense of greater certainty as to the quality and safety of products, hope for a smaller carbon footprint, and a means of supporting local communities. The Covid-19 pandemic, which has exposed the existing fragilities in global supply chains, has only reinforced this trend. More generally, origin is a point of concern for consumers who want to be provided with information on the provenance of products. This is particularly true for food, which has become the focal point of current societal, ethical, and environmental debates.

The easiest way to convey origin information is through labelling. Consumers increasingly expect such information to be made available. However, for most foodstuffs present on the EU market, labels do not mention the origin of the food or its ingredients. Displaying that information is not generally required by EU law, and it is therefore most often absent. As a result, consumers and consumer groups in the EU have long requested and advocated for greater transparency as to the origin of food products.

The European Commission recently announced that it was willing to move in that direction. As part of its Farm to Fork Strategy, adopted in 2020, the Commission wants to revise existing rules to extend the mandatory indication of origin to more categories of foodstuffs. Taken at face value, this seems to be a reasonable move. It is hard to argue against consumers being provided with more information, enabling them to gain greater control over their diets and uphold whatever their beliefs or principles might be. The present paper, while not denying the inherent value of greater transparency for consumers, offers to take a step back and critically examine the issue of origin and origin labelling in the EU. These, it will be argued, beg important and complex questions that should not be swept under the carpet.

A first series of questions relate to food’s origin in general. What is it that consumers want to know when seeking information about origin, and what do they think they know when they are provided with it? A number of assertions made in this regard—that domestic food or food from a given origin would be safer, tastier, or better for the environment—do not seem to withstand scrutiny in an EU single market where rules applicable to food are largely harmonised. Origin is a poor proxy for most of what people value about food. This does not automatically mean that information on origin should be withheld from consumers, but wider public policy benefits arising from the provision of that information are far from certain.

A second series of questions relate to food’s origin from the perspective of the EU single market. European consumers display nationalistic tendencies in respect of their food choices, a fact not altogether surprising considering how closely food is associated with national and local cultures.[1] In that regard, origin labelling can be used as a tool to guide consumers towards national purchases. Member States have used it in the past and continue to do so,[2]  often as part of broader campaigns to incite consumers to buy national products.[3] This not only creates tangible barriers to the free movement of goods; it also opposes the broader ideal of a single market where goods circulate freely and are judged on their merits rather than their origin. This explains why EU law has always been rather hostile towards mandatory indications of origin for products.

The Commission therefore needs to strike the right balance between the various interests at stake and to proceed cautiously with the coming reform, especially since the effects of mandatory country-of-origin labelling on food choices and trade patterns remain disputed. This will be no easy task, and an intense debate can be expected in the years to come, much like the one already raging regarding the introduction of a European front-of-pack nutrition label.[4] Ideally, EU rules requiring the mandatory indication of origin for food products should be kept to a minimum, applying only when a clear link can be established between the origin of a given food and its characteristics or where a clear EU public policy interest exists.

The first part of this paper discusses the importance of origin for consumer choice and some of the main costs and benefits arising from origin labelling for food in the EU context. The second part provides an overview of the applicable legal framework. In the third and final part, the current tabled changes to this legal framework are briefly discussed.

Food origin labelling

2. Origin and origin labelling for food

2.1.  An important aspect of consumer choice

The so-called country-of-origin effect, that is, the impact of country-of-origin information on product evaluation and purchasing intention, is a well-established phenomenon in consumer research, although its nature and extent are still debated.[5] The literature distinguishes three main and interrelated ways in which this information affects consumer attitudes and behaviours.[6] Firstly, a consumer may positively or negatively associate a product’s origin with certain characteristics, objective or imagined, for instance, only buying German cars for their reliability but favouring France when it comes to wine. Secondly, consumers are also influenced through an ‘affective’ mechanism which is at play when the origin possesses emotional value, particularly in relation to their home country. Finally, in ‘normative’ situations, consumers hold certain ethical views related to product origin and deliberately decide on their purchases based on those considerations. For example, some consumers refrain from buying products originating from a country whose regime or actions they object to or consistently favour products of domestic origin to support their own country and economy.

Available data for the European Union show a sizeable consumer interest in origin.[7] In the 2019 Eurobarometer on food safety, 53 per cent of consumers mentioned origin as a decisive factor in their food choices, the most cited item before cost (51 per cent), safety (50 per cent), and taste (49 per cent).[8] The recent 2020 Eurobarometer, Making our food fit for the future – Citizens’ expectations, shows a lower yet still significant level of interest in origin: 34 per cent of respondents said they cared about the origin of food.[9] This is not a new phenomenon. A 2013 study by the pan-European consumer organisation BEUC showed that close to a 70 per cent average of consumers in Austria, France, Poland, and Sweden considered origin to be an important factor, although this information only came in fifth or sixth place in terms of what consumers said mattered most to them when choosing food.[10]

The reasons behind consumers’ interest in the origin of their food can vary. Apart from the simple desire to know where a food item comes from, consumers generally see origin information as a way to assess four main dimensions of food: its safety, its quality, its environmental impact, and its ethical dimension.[11] What is also made evident in a wide range of studies is that European consumers display nationalist tendencies when it comes to food.[12]

Regarding meat, recent studies show that more than four-fifths (82 per cent) of Europeans who use origin indications to inform their purchasing decisions state a preference for meat from their own country and do so for national identity reasons and as a means to support their national economy.[13] In a 2015 report from the European Commission, 43 per cent of interviewed consumers declared that they would use origin labelling to favour national or local production over other food origins and that only a little over 10 per cent would use it for quality or food safety reasons.[14]

If focusing on particular EU Member States, a recent poll shows, for instance, that three out of four French people are ready to pay more for French products and that around nine out of ten think that buying French is a way to support national companies, that it is a guarantee of quality products elaborated with respect to high social standards, and that it is important for a company to tell consumers whether a product has been fabricated in France or not.[15] In Italy, it has been reported that 9 per cent of Italian consumers expect origin labelling to be made mandatory on food and 80 per cent consider it important to buy food made in Italy with Italian ingredients.[16]

Although the extent to which these various attitudes towards local and foreign food products are present in the European population can be debated, it cannot be denied that for a sizeable number of consumers origin information offers an opportunity to favour domestic production. The magnitude of this phenomenon may even be underestimated, as it has been shown that consumers often deny relying on origin information for fear of appearing biased.[17] If origin could reliably be linked to important properties or aspects of foods, this would not in itself be a problem. This is, however, most often not the case.

2.2.  How relevant is origin to judging food properties?

Consumers may wish to consume foods from a given origin or refuse foods from another for ethical reasons that are only known to them. This is a highly subjective judgement, and origin information may certainly help consumers choose according to their own scale of values. However, from the perspective of other typical and more ‘objective’ reasons given by consumers as to why the origin of food matters to them—safety, quality, and sustainability—origin appears to be a rather poor proxy.

Regarding food safety, extensive EU legislation in the field means that food consumed in the EU is generally safe and,[18] most importantly, that the standards that must be respected with regard to food safety are the same regardless of a product’s origin.[19] Fraud can occur, and the traceability of foodstuffs needs to be ensured, as illustrated by the 2013 horsemeat scandal,[20] but origin information itself cannot give consumers a sense of whether a particular food is safe or not.

Regarding the environment, origin offers only partial and possibly misleading information. International transportation emissions only account for approximately 6 per cent of the greenhouse gas emissions originating from EU diets.[21] Transport is just one of many factors contributing to the environmental impact of food and not the most crucial one. As a senior European Commission official recently declared, ‘normally, the effect of having the right climate, the right soil or the right water outweighs very often the transport cost, which is the first thing you think about when you think about sustainability’.[22] Buying local and sustainably grown fruits and vegetables, rather than importing them from across the globe, can make perfect sense, but this reasoning may not apply for all categories of products and for all origins. Moreover, in the EU context, where most Member States are modest in size, country-of-origin labelling may not constitute an adequate tool to assess the distance covered by a given food before reaching consumers. For the many Europeans living in border areas, foreign foods may in fact be more local than domestic ones produced on the other side of the country.[23]

Finally, regarding food quality, it is undeniable that certain products’ characteristics directly result from their place of origin. This is especially the case for agricultural products, to which soil and climate can give specific qualities, and more generally for a range of traditional products that are prepared according to fixed recipes with ingredients originating from a particular place. These products usually benefit from a protected designation of origin at the EU level (see section 2.1), ensuring that consumers are not misled as to their quality or their provenance. However, for a wide range of other food products, especially processed food, origin information is of no use to assess quality because no link exists between their characteristics and their origin.

2.3.  Mandatory origin labelling for food and the single market

Labelling is the most effective way to convey origin information to consumers. This information matters to them and may in certain cases help them to choose foods that better align with their preferences. Hence, even if mandatory origin labelling does not bring any substantial contribution in terms of food safety, quality, and sustainability, it can be argued for as a matter of transparency, consumer autonomy, and free choice.

However, the costs and potential negative consequences arising from new origin labelling obligations for food at the EU level should not be ignored, even if evidence of this remains unclear and contested among various stakeholders. It is not the case that because consumers find a piece of information important, it must automatically be translated into an obligation for operators to disclose that information.

Origin labelling comes at a certain cost for economic operators.[24] That cost mainly derives not from affixing a label but rather from the burden of determining what should be, in legal terms, the origin indicated on that label and adapting the process of production as a result. Because food products are often made of ingredients originating from various countries and assembled in different countries, complying with mandatory origin labelling requirements requires the adoption of separate process lines per origin and separate logistic flows, which can affect the efficiency of the production process. After the introduction by certain Member States of national rules on mandatory origin labelling for milk and meat, for example, food business operators have reported rising costs; however, these do not seem to have impacted final prices for consumers.[25]

More worrying from a single market perspective is the potential negative effect of mandatory origin labelling rules on intra-EU trade flows. This could occur if consumers adapt their purchasing behaviour to favour national products or if companies change their sourcing activities to limit their supply to a smaller number of countries, either due to the costs faced or in anticipation of a change in consumer purchasing behaviour. In this regard, recent available data on EU mandatory origin labelling rules for meat reveal that the impact on intra-EU trade flows is far from clear-cut, with evidence of renationalisation in some meat sectors, but not all sectors.[26] Following the entry into force of a 2016 French decree on mandatory origin labelling regarding milk and meat used as an ingredient (discussed further in section 2.2), businesses have reported significant drops in meat and milk imports from Belgium and Germany to France.[27]

Moreover, what results from the application of rules over origin can be surprising or even misleading for consumers. According to the Union Customs Code, ‘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’.[28] This means, for instance, that a foodstuff processed in a given country originates from that country even though all of its ingredients might come from other places. This is not necessarily what consumers have in mind.

A recent case before the Court of Justice of the European Union provides a good illustration thereof.[29] Proceedings had been brought against a company selling mushrooms, accusing it of falsely claiming that its production was of German origin. The process of production was complex, involving different stages taking place in three different countries over the course of a month and a half. Only at the end of this process were cultivation boxes transported to Germany for the mushrooms to be harvested. The raw materials were not of German origin, and most of the production process happened outside Germany. Yet the applicable EU rules clearly indicated that only the harvesting mattered in determining the legal origin of the goods, so the company had every right to refer to their German origin.[30]

3.1.  National rules on origin labelling and the free movement of goods

EU law constrains Member States in their ability to promote or favour domestic production. This can be seen in various fields, such as public procurement, state aid, and internal market rules. The Court of Justice, for instance, has always been careful not to authorise ‘buy national’ campaigns whereby Member States could openly promote domestic production to the detriment of others.[31]

In order to ensure the free movement of goods within the EU internal market, Article 34 of the Treaty on the Functioning of the European Union (TFEU) prohibits all quantitative restrictions on imports between Member States and all measures having equivalent effect, the latter entailing that ‘all trading rules enacted by Member States which are capable of hindering, directly or indirectly, actually or potentially, intra-community trade are to be considered as measures having an effect equivalent to quantitative restrictions’.[32] Throughout the years, the Court of Justice has had to rule on the legality of various national labelling schemes linked to origin under Article 34 TFEU. It has found that these constituted prohibited measures that could not be justified by any public policy requirement.

According to the Court, ‘the purpose of indications of origin or origin-marking is to enable consumers to distinguish between domestic and imported products [which] enables them to assert any prejudices which they may have against foreign products’.[33] This requirement not only constitutes an additional burden that must be complied with by goods lawfully produced in another Member State; ‘it also has the effect of slowing down economic interpenetration in the [European Union]’.[34] The Court considers that ‘it is unnecessary for a purchaser to know whether or not a product is of a particular origin, unless such origin implies a certain quality, basic materials or process of manufacture or a particular place in the folklore or tradition of the region in question’.[35]

A particularly clear example of the Court’s strong reluctance to accept the legality of national measures requiring the indication of origin on products can be seen with the Commission v Ireland (Irish souvenirs) case.[36] There, the ruling at stake was a prohibition on the sale of imported products sold as ‘souvenirs of Ireland’ unless they bore an indication of their country of origin or the word ‘foreign’. Ireland made the reasonable argument that it was necessary for buyers to know that an item sold as a souvenir from the country was actually manufactured elsewhere, in order not to be misled. The Court rejected that argument, considering that ‘the essential characteristic of the souvenirs in question is that they constitute a pictorial reminder of the place visited’ and not that they are manufactured in the country of origin.[37]

The Court’s opposition towards this type of national measure is firmly grounded in a vision of the internal market as a dynamic place where consumer conceptions and habits evolve.[38] Member States’ rules therefore must not ‘crystallize given consumer habits so as to consolidate an advantage acquired by national industries’.[39] The Court is suspicious of Member States’ attempts to favour domestic production by ‘marking’ imported goods and fears that consumers may use that information to shun foreign products.

In the same vein, the Court has also repeatedly barred Member States from introducing ‘quality labels’ that are only accessible to national products and thus seek to promote national products over imported products. In Commission v Germany, for instance,[40] Germany had reserved some renowned wine appellations to wine produced with a minimum percentage of German grapes. The Court considered that ‘by compelling the products of the other Member States to employ appellations which are unknown or less esteemed by the consumer, the legislation […] is calculated to favour the disposal of the domestic product on the German market to the detriment of the products of other Member States’.[41]

To conclude on this point, it is useful to quote the Court once again:

<EXT>[I]n a market which, as far as possible, must present the features of a single market, entitlement to a designation of quality for a product can – except in the case of the rules applicable to registered designations of origin and indications of origin – only depend upon the intrinsic objective characteristics governing the quality of the product compared with a similar product of inferior quality, and not on the geographical locality where a particular production stage took place.[42]</EXT>

It must be noted that national rules reserving the use of certain denominations on the basis of the origin of products can be defended for reasons pertaining to the protection of industrial and commercial property.[43] These are now protected by EU secondary law as EU quality schemes (‘protected designations of origin’ [PDO] and ‘protected geographical indications’ [PGI] for food and wine, and ‘geographical indications’ [GI] for aromatised wines and spirit drinks).[44] Specific designations can benefit from this protection whenever a product’s characteristics are deemed to be essentially due to its geographical origin.

3.2.  EU harmonised rules on origin labelling for foodstuffs

In order to eliminate barriers to trade and to facilitate the free movement of foodstuffs within the Union, food labelling rules are largely standardised at EU level. Suspicion towards origin labelling requirements has found its way into EU legislation on food labelling. Aside from rules applicable to certain specific categories of products, such as bovine meat,[45] fruits and vegetables,[46] or honey,[47] foodstuffs are generally not required to be labelled with origin information, and Member States are prevented from adopting rules making that information mandatory.

Regulation 1169/2011, the main horizontal instrument governing the provision of food information to consumers, foresees mandatary origin labelling in three cases:[48] (i) where failure to indicate this might mislead the consumer as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of the food, (ii) for certain types of meat (swine, sheep, goat, and poultry),[49] and (iii) where the country of origin or the place of provenance of a food is given and where it is not the same as that of its primary ingredient.[50]

Outside these three cases, economic operators can give this information voluntarily, provided that the origin is determined according to EU rules and is given in a manner that does not mislead consumers.[51] Member States are prevented from imposing origin labelling requirements on foods, save for situations where this is justified for public policy reasons, including the protection of public health, the protection of consumers, and the prevention of fraud.[52] In such cases, Member States must show that ‘there is a proven link between certain qualities of the food and its origin or provenance’, and these measures must be reported to the Commission, accompanied by ‘evidence that the majority of consumers attach significant value to the provision of that information’.[53] Importantly, such measures can only be adopted for categories of foods and not as general obligations applicable to all foodstuffs.

Regulation 1169/2011 mentions a number of categories of products as potential candidates for an EU mandatory indication of origin: types of meat not yet covered by any specific EU instrument and meat used as an ingredient, milk and milk used as an ingredient in dairy products, unprocessed foods, single ingredient products, and ingredients that represent more than 50 per cent of a food.[54] The Commission was charged to submit reports regarding the extension of mandatory origin labelling to these categories of products, taking into account ‘the need for the consumer to be informed, the feasibility of providing the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance and an analysis of the costs and benefits of the introduction of such measures, including the legal impact on the internal market and the impact on international trade’, and possibly accompanying them with proposals to modify the relevant Union provisions. These have all been published, but no modification of the legal framework has been formally proposed by the Commission until now.[55] Faced with the complexity of the issue and the difficulty in clearly establishing the added value that the extension of mandatory origin labelling to these categories of products would bring for the EU, the Commission has so far preferred to rely on the voluntary provision of origin information by food business operators.

Member States have in recent years made increased use of the derogation contained in Regulation 1169/2011 allowing them to adopt mandatory origin labelling schemes at the national level.[56] These rules concern mostly milk and meat used as an ingredient. Lithuania introduced mandatory origin labelling on milk in 2015.[57] In 2017 and 2018, Italy adopted two decrees imposing new origin labelling obligations on pasta, rice and certain tomato products.[58]

In March 2021, after a challenge was brought by the dairy giant Lactalis, the Conseil d’État, France’s highest administrative court, annulled the provisions of a French decree on the mandatory origin labelling of milk.[59] This followed a judgment from the European Court of Justice which clearly established that the French rule did not respect the conditions set in Regulation 1169/2011, outlined above.[60]

The ruling of the French higher court was followed by an outcry from French milk producers, calling it an ‘unacceptable step backwards’, a ‘decision that goes against the grain of history’ and ‘the recognition of the work of French dairy farmers’.[61] The French consumer organisation UFC Que Choisir was equally vocal in its criticism of the decision, focusing its grievance on the alleged positive role of origin labelling to combat fraud (citing the 2013 horsemeat scandal) and to reduce the impact of diets on the environment.[62] Economic patriotism, food safety, the environment: the arguments put forward are here again unconvincing. Lactalis, meanwhile, welcomed the ruling, stating that its legal challenge was ‘motivated by the desire not to undermine the free movement of goods through a proliferation of origin decrees in Europe’, which would ultimately hurt exports of French dairy products.[63]

4. Towards an extended mandatory indication of origin at the EU level?

A cornerstone of the European Green Deal, the Farm to Fork Strategy, is the European Commission’s action plan for building a fairer, healthier, and more environmentally friendly food system. As part of this plan, the Commission is considering the extension of mandatory indications of origin on new categories of food products in order to ‘empower consumers to make informed, healthy and sustainable food choices’.[64] It remains unclear at this stage whether the Commission believes that origin information is likely to play a key role in driving the switch to more sustainable diets or if this reform is simply a way to enhance food transparency.

The Commission does, however, seem to be willing to act with caution, recognising that ‘locally produced foods might also be produced in a less environmentally-friendly way’[65] and that such reforms could have adverse effects on the functioning of the single market.[66] A limited number of foods have so far been identified as benefitting from this extended mandatory indication of origin: milk and milk used as an ingredient, meat used as an ingredient, rabbit and game meat, rice, durum wheat used in pasta, potatoes, and tomatoes used in certain tomato products.[67]

In its Presidency Conclusions of 15 December 2020, the Council of the European Union took a line broadly similar to that of the Commission, stressing the importance of origin information for consumers but also emphasising that origin labelling should not result in trade barriers within the internal market and should be clear and easily understandable so as not to mislead consumers. It also underlined the need for an assessment of the costs and benefits of an extension of the mandatory indication of origin to other products, including their sustainability aspects.[68] In a 2016 resolution, the European Parliament had already called on the Commission to extend the mandatory indication of origin to other products.[69] Both institutions, Council and Parliament, also consider milk, and milk and meat used as an ingredient, to be priorities for such a reform.

It is likely that Member States will adopt different positions on this legislative file, a conclusion that can be drawn from previous experience with origin labelling reform at the EU level. In February 2013, the Commission presented a proposal for a new regulation on product safety, introducing mandatory origin marking for industrial products, but the text did not apply to foodstuffs.[70] The origin country would have been determined according to the non-preferential rules of origin set out in the Union Customs Code. For products originating from EU Member States, manufacturers would have been given free rein to indicate origin from the Union as a whole or from a particular Member State. The European Parliament gave it a green light and adopted its first reading position in 2014, but the Council never managed to reach an agreement. Despite the presentation of a compromise proposal,[71] a number of Member States remained firmly opposed to this new mandatory indication of origin, seeing it as a ‘slippery slope’ towards a generalisation of ‘Made in’ labelling for all products.[72] The Commission formally withdrew the proposal in 2020.[73]

An ‘EU/non-EU’ mandatory labelling scheme may appear to be a good alternative to a country-specific labelling obligation, as it would not influence intra-EU trading opportunities, would be simpler to navigate for food operators, and could even represent – in the eyes of some – a way to promote the consumption of products of EU origin, thereby fostering ‘European economic patriotism’. However, such an alternative would do little to alleviate most of the concerns already mentioned about origin labelling and would not be considered sufficiently precise by consumers. Some non-EU countries, such as Switzerland and Norway, are practically bound by the same set of rules applicable to EU countries with regard to the single market, and consuming food from such nearby countries does not raise any particular concern from an environmental point of view. Moreover, it is clear that consumers would not be satisfied with information on origin that is not at least at the country level.[74] 

5. Conclusion

Origin labelling pits two legitimate and powerful interests against each other. On the one hand, the EU strives to attain a high level of consumer protection, which requires that consumers be provided with the information that matters to them. There can be good or bad reasons for people to base their consumption choices on the origin of products, but this should not mean they are prevented from doing so solely because one objects to these choices. On the other hand, a European market fragmented along national lines, where consumers may actively favour their own country’s products with the support of their governments, is not an appealing picture. This would not only go against the very idea of a single market but also, in the long term, could diminish consumers’ choices and commercial opportunities. Moreover, it is highly doubtful that extended origin labelling information on foodstuffs would meaningfully contribute to any of the key objectives pursued by the Farm to Fork Strategy.

The Commission should therefore only propose to extend current rules on mandatory indication of origin to new categories of products where consumer interest is particularly strong and no adverse consequences to the proper functioning of the single market are foreseen. Informing consumers as to the sustainability of their choices would be better served by a general sustainable labelling framework covering the broader environmental impact of food than by relying on a sole origin criterion.

If you would like to read more on other relevant EU topics such as CoFoE, enlargement, strategic autonomy, or EU-China relations, feel free the check out the other Future of Europe Journal articles here.

References

Barnard, Catherine, & O’Connor, Niall (2017). ‘Runners and Riders: The Horsemeat Scandal, EU Law and Multi-level Enforcement’. The Cambridge Law Journal, 76(1), 116–144.

BEUC (2013). ‘Where does my food come from? BEUC consumer survey on origin labelling on food’. January, https://www.beuc.eu/publications/2013-00043-01-e.pdf.

Coldiretti (2018). ‘Labelling of origin for agricultural and food products’. 4 June, European Parliament, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/148301/Coldiretti%20presentazione%20COOL%20origine%20ENG_def.pdf.

Commission Staff Working Document (2013). ‘Origin labelling for meat used as an ingredient: consumers’ attitude, feasibility of possible scenarios and impacts’. SWD(2013) 437 final, Brussels, 17 December.

Delhomme, Vincent (2021). ‘Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling in the European Union: A Behavioural, Legal and Political Analysis’. European Journal of Risk Regulation, 1–24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/err.2021.5.

DGCCRF (2020). ‘Le Made in France: le nouveau critère d’achat privilégié des Français’. November, https://www.economie.gouv.fr/files/2020-11/made-in-france.pdf.

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European Commission (2015a). ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for milk, milk used as an ingredient in dairy products and types of meat other than beef, swine, sheep, goat and poultry meat’. COM(2015) 205 final, Brussels, 20 May.

European Commission (2015b). ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for unprocessed foods, single ingredient products and ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food’. COM(2015) 204 final, Brussels, 20 May.

European Commission (2020a). ‘Evaluation support study on mandatory indication of country of origin labelling for certain meats: Final Report’. Brussels, 12 November.

European Commission (2020b). ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’, https://ec.europa.eu/food/system/files/2020-05/f2f_action-plan_2020_strategy-info_en.pdf.

Fischer, Peter M., & Zeugner-Roth, Katharina P. (2017). ‘Disentangling Country-of-Origin Effects: The Interplay of Product Ethnicity, National Identity, and Consumer Ethnocentrism’. Marketing Letters, 28(2), 189-204.

Foote, Natasha (2020). ‘Distance not determining factor of sustainability, says Commission official’. Euractiv, 26 November, https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/distance-not-determining-factor-of-sustainability-says-commission-official/.

French Senate (2021). ‘Rapport d’information fait au nom de la commission de l’aménagement du territoire et du développement durable et de la commission des affaires économiques’. n° 620 (2020–2021), 19 May, 72–73.

Herz, Marc, & Diamantopoulos, Adamantios (2017). ‘I Use It but Will Tell You That I Don’t: Consumers’ Country-of-Origin Cue Usage Denial’. Journal of International Marketing, 25(2), 52–71.

Hilson, Chris (2008). ‘Going Local? EU Law, Localism and Climate Change’. European Law Review, 33(2), 194–210.

Ichijo, Atsuko (2020). ‘Food and Nationalism: Gastronationalism Revisited’. Nationalities Papers, 48(2), 215–223.

Insch, Andrea, & Jackson, Erin (2013). ‘Consumer Understanding and Use of Country-of-Origin in Food Choice’. British Food Journal, 116(1), 62–79.

Jacobs, Dirk (2018). ‘Country of origin labelling: Perspectives and experiences from the European food and drink manufacturing sector’. Food Drink Europe, 4 June, European Parliament, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/148123/Jacobs-presentation.pdf.

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[1] For a brief overview of the question, see: Atsuko Ichijo (2020), ‘Food and Nationalism: Gastronationalism Revisited’, Nationalities Papers, 48(2), 215.

[2] See, for example, the recent information report from the French Senate (2021), ‘Rapport d’information fait au nom de la commission de l’aménagement du territoire et du développement durable et de la commission des affaires économiques’, n° 620 (2020–2021), 19 May, 72–73.

[3] See the infringement procedure opened by the European Commission against Romania in 2017 (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/MEMO_17_234) and the recent reasoned opinion sent to Bulgaria (https://ec.europa.eu/commission/presscorner/detail/en/inf_20_1687).

[4] See: Vincent Delhomme (2021), ‘Front-of-Pack Nutrition Labelling in the European Union: A Behavioural, Legal and Political Analysis’, European Journal of Risk Regulation, 1–24. DOI: https://doi.org/10.1017/err.2021.5.

[5] Marc Herz and Adamantios Diamantopoulos (2017), ‘I Use It but Will Tell You That I Don’t: Consumers’ Country-of-Origin Cue Usage Denial’, Journal of International Marketing, 25(2), 52–53, 64; Andrea Insch and Erin Jackson (2013), ‘Consumer Understanding and Use of Country-of-Origin in Food Choice’, British Food Journal, 116(1), 62; Wim Verbeke and Jutta Roosen (2009), ‘Market Differentiation Potential of Country-of-Origin, Quality and Traceability Labeling’, Estey Centre Journal of International Law and Trade Policy, 10(1), 20.

[6] Peeter W.J. Verlegh and Jan-Benedict E.M. Steenkamp (1999), ‘A Review and Meta-analysis of Country-of-Origin Research’, Journal of Economic Psychology, 20(5), 521; Peter M. Fischer and Katharina P. Zeugner-Roth (2017), ‘Disentangling Country-of-Origin Effects: The Interplay of Product Ethnicity, National Identity, and Consumer Ethnocentrism’, Marketing Letters, 28(2), 189.

[7] See, for instance, various European Commission reports: European Commission (2013), ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for meat used as an ingredient’, COM(2013) 755 final, Brussels, 17 December, 7; European Commission (2015a), ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for milk, milk used as an ingredient in dairy products and types of meat other than beef, swine, sheep, goat and poultry meat’, COM(2015) 205 final, Brussels, 20 May, 6; European Commission (2015b), ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for unprocessed foods, single ingredient products and ingredients that represent more than 50% of a food’, COM(2015) 204 final, Brussels, 20 May, 6.

[8] Special Eurobarometer (2019), ‘Food safety in the EU’, Directorate-General for Communication, European Commission, June.

[9] Special Eurobarometer 505 (2020), ‘Making our food fit for the future – Citizens’ expectations’, Directorate-General for Communication, European Commission, December.

[10] BEUC (2013), ‘Where does my food come from? BEUC consumer survey on origin labelling on food’, January, 5, https://www.beuc.eu/publications/2013-00043-01-e.pdf.

[11] See: BEUC, ‘Where does my food come from?’, 6; on safety and quality, see: European Commission (2020a), ‘Evaluation support study on mandatory indication of country of origin labelling for certain meats: Final Report’, Brussels, 12 November, 171; European Commission, ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for milk’, 7; European Commission, ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for meat’, 7.

[12] See, however, the BEUC study showing that ‘a minority of consumers (1%–3%) spontaneously reply that they pay attention to the origin of their food because they wish to support the local economy/local farming or prefer regional products’ (‘Where does my food come from?’, 6).

[13] Commission Staff Working Document (2013), ‘Origin labelling for meat used as an ingredient: consumers’ attitude, feasibility of possible scenarios and impacts’, SWD(2013) 437 final, Brussels, 17 December, section 3.3; European Commission, ‘Evaluation support study’, 51.

[14] European Commission, ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for unprocessed foods’, 6.

[15] DGCCRF (2020), ‘Le Made in France: le nouveau critère d’achat privilégié des Français’,  November, 3, https://www.economie.gouv.fr/files/2020-11/made-in-france.pdf.

[16] Presentation by Coldiretti (2018), ‘Labelling of origin for agricultural and food products’, 4 June, European Parliament, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/148301/Coldiretti%20presentazione%20COOL%20origine%20ENG_def.pdf

[17] Herz and Diamantopoulos, ‘I Use It’, n. 5.

[18] See: Regulation (EC) No 178/2002 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 28 January 2002 laying down the general principles and requirements of food law, establishing the European Food Safety Authority and laying down procedures in matters of food safety, OJ L 31, 1 February 2002, 1–24.

[19] See: European Commission, ‘Evaluation support study’, 51; European Commission, ‘Report from the Commission to the European Parliament and the Council regarding the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for meat’, 8.

[20] Catherine Barnard and Niall O’Connor (2017), ‘Runners and Riders: The Horsemeat Scandal, EU Law and Multi-level Enforcement’, The Cambridge Law Journal, 76(1), 116.

[21] Vilma Sandström, Hugo Valin, Tamás Krisztin, Petr Havlík, Mario Herrero, and Thomas Kastner (2018), ‘The Role of Trade in the Greenhouse Gas Footprints of EU Diets’, Global Food Security, 19, 51.

[22] Natasha Foote (2020), ‘Distance not determining factor of sustainability, says Commission official’, Euractiv, 26 November, https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/distance-not-determining-factor-of-sustainability-says-commission-official/.

[23] Chris Hilson (2008), ‘Going Local? EU Law, Localism and Climate Change’, European Law Review, 33(2), 196.

[24] See: Dirk Jacobs (2018), ‘Country of origin labelling: Perspectives and experiences from the European food and drink manufacturing sector’, Food Drink Europe, 4 June, European Parliament, http://www.europarl.europa.eu/cmsdata/148123/Jacobs-presentation.pdf.

[25] See the various presentations by CLITRAVI, the European Dairy Association, and the French and Finnish governments; https://ec.europa.eu/food/horizontal-topics/expert-groups/advisory-groups-action-platforms/advisory-group-food-chain-and-6_en.

[26] European Commission, ‘Evaluation support study’, 47.

[27] See the presentations by Food Drink Europe, CLITRAVI, and the European Dairy Association, n. 24 and 25.

[28] Regulation (EU) No 952/2013 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 9 October 2013 laying down the Union Customs Code, OJ L 269, 10 October 2013, 1–101, Article 60(2).

[29] Case C-686/17, Zentrale zur Bekämpfung unlauteren Wettbewerbs Frankfurt am Main, EU:C:2019:659.

[30] Case C-686/17, Zentrale,para. 56.

[31] Case 249/81, Commission v Ireland, EU:C:1982:402. On the promotion of agricultural products, see: European Union Guidelines for State aid in the agricultural and forestry sectors and in rural areas 2014 to 2020, OJ C 204, 1 July 2014, 1–97, section 1.3.2.

[32] Case 8/74, Dassonville, EU:C:1974:82, para. 5.

[33] Case 207/83, Commission v United Kingdom (Origin marking), EU:C:1985:161, para. 17. See also: Case C-95/14, UNIC/Uni.co.pel, EU:C:2015:492, para. 44.

[34]Case 207/83, Commission v United Kingdom (Origin marking), EU:C:1985:161, para. 17.

[35] Case 113/80, Commission v Ireland (Irish souvenirs), EU:C:1981:139, para. 13.

[36] Case 113/80, Ireland.

[37] Case 113/80, Ireland, para. 15.

[38] Case 178/84, Commission v Germany, EU:C:1987:126, para. 32.

[39] Case 170/78, Commission v United Kingdom, EU:C:1980:53, para. 14.

[40] Case 12/74, Commission v Germany, EU:C:1975:23.

[41] Case 12/74, Germany, para. 14; see also: Case C-325/00, Commission v Germany, EU:C:2002:633, para. 23; Case 249/81, Ireland, para. 25.

[42] Case 13/78, Eggers, EU:C:1978:182, para. 24.

[43] Case 12/74, Germany, para 15; Case C-3/91, Exportur, EU:C:1992:420, para. 23–30; Case C-325/00, Germany, para. 27.

[44] Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 of 21 November 2012 on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs, OJ L 343, 14 December 2012, 1. See also: Regulation (EU) No 1308/2013 of 17 December 2013 establishing a common organisation of the markets in agricultural products, OJ L 347, 20 December 2013, 671; Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 of 15 January 2008 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks, OJ L 39, 13 February 2008, 16; Regulation (EU) No 251/2014 of 26 February 2014 on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of aromatised wine products, OJ L 84, 20 March 2014, 14.

[45] Regulation (EC) No 1760/2000 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 17 July 2000 establishing a system for the identification and registration of bovine animals and regarding the labelling of beef and beef products, OJ L 204, 11 August 2000, 1–10.

[46] Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 543/2011 of 7 June 2011 laying down detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 in respect of the fruit and vegetables and processed fruit and vegetables sectors, OJ L 157, 15 June 2011, 1–163.

[47] Council Directive 2001/110/EC of 20 December 2001 relating to honey, OJ L 10, 12 January 2002, 47–52.

[48] Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, OJ L 304, 22 November 2011, 18, Article 26(2) and (3). The origin that must be indicated can be the ‘country of origin’ or the ‘place of provenance’; for the definition of these terms, see Article 2(2)(g).

[49] See the Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) No 1337/2013 of 13 December 2013 laying down rules for the application of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 as regards the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for fresh, chilled and frozen meat of swine, sheep, goats and poultry, OJ L 335, 14 December 2013, 19.

[50] The primary ingredient is defined in Article 2(2)(q). For further details, see: Commission Implementing Regulation (EU) 2018/775 of 28 May 2018 laying down rules for the application of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, as regards the rules for indicating the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient of a food, OJ L 131, 29 May 2018, 8; Commission Notice on the application of the provisions of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, OJ C 32, 31 January 2020, 1.

[51] See: Article 36 of Regulation 1169/2011.

[52] Article 39(1) of Regulation 1169/2011.

[53] Article 39(2) of Regulation 1169/2011.

[54] Article 26(5) and (6) of Regulation 1169/2011.

[55] See: reports n. 7.

[56] Tarja Lanineen (2018), ‘Mandatory origin-labelling schemes in Member States’, EPRS Briefing, September. See also the various country presentations available at https://ec.europa.eu/food/horizontal-topics/expert-groups/advisory-groups-action-platforms/advisory-group-food-chain-and-6_en.

[57] Lanineen, ‘Mandatory origin-labelling schemes’, 5–6.

[58] Lanineen, ‘Mandatory origin-labelling schemes’, 5. For further details, see: https://www.mise.gov.it/index.php/it/198-notizie-stampa/2040925-firmata-proroga-per-origine-obbligatoria-per-pasta-riso-e-derivati-del-pomodoro.

[59] Conseil d’État, Société Groupe Lactalis, n° 404651, 428432 and 441239.

[60] Case C-485/18, Groupe Lactalis, EU:C:2020:763.

[61] Magdalena Pistorius (2021), ‘French dairy farmers sour after milk origin labelling scrapped’, Euractiv, 26 March, https://www.euractiv.com/section/agriculture-food/news/french-dairy-farmers-sour-after-milk-origin-labelling-scrapped/.

[62] See the arguments on food safety and environment, for instance, of French consumer organisation UFC Que Choisir (2021), ‘Origine du lait  Une annulation bien indigeste’, 16 March, https://www.quechoisir.org/billet-du-president-origine-du-lait-une-annulation-bien-indigeste-n89286/.

[63] UFC Que Choisir, ‘Origine du lait’.

[64] European Commission (2020b), ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’, 13, https://ec.europa.eu/food/system/files/2020-05/f2f_action-plan_2020_strategy-info_en.pdf.

[65] Inception Impact Assessment, Ref. Ares (2020)7905364, 23 December 2020, 5.

[66] European Union, ‘Farm to Fork Strategy’, 13.

[67] Inception Impact Assessment, 5.

[68] Council of the European Union, ‘Presidency Conclusions on front-of-pack nutrition labelling, nutrient profiles and origin labelling’, 15 December 2020. The Presidency was, however, in a position to conclude that 23 delegations (BE/BG/DK/EE/IE/ES/FR/HR/CY/LV/LT/LU/HU/MT/NL/AT/PL/PT/RO/SI/SK/FI/SE) supported the text in its entirety as annexed to this document, while three delegations (CZ/EL/IT) did not.

[69] European Parliament resolution of 12 May 2016 on mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance for certain foods, OJ C 76, 28 February 2018, 49–53, para 22.

[70] Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on consumer product safety and repealing Council Directive 87/357/EEC and Directive 2001/95/EC, Article 7.

[71] Council of the European Union (2016), ‘Letter and compromise proposal related to the Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on consumer product safety and repealing Council Directive 87/357/EEC and Directive 2001/95/EC’, 7738/16, http://data.consilium.europa.eu/doc/document/ST-7738-2016-INIT/en/pdf.

[72] Council of the European Union, ‘Letter and compromise proposal’, 3.

[73] Withdrawal of Commission proposals 2020/C 321/03, OJ C 321, 29.9.2020, 37–40.

[74] See, in that regard: BEUC, ‘Where does my food come from?’

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