Italy challenges the EU rules on food labelling

ITALY – Italy has challenged the requirements that specify the production site on the labels of transformed food products, which comes as a defiance of the EU’s food rules that unilaterally mandated country of origin on pasta and rice labels since August.

According to the European Commission, an issue giving the opinion on Italy’s proposal on the food labelling ruling was to be given in October but Italy withdrew their proposal- due to possible objections of four member states – Austria, Germany, Spain and Germany.

According to the Italian press, Italy has now amended the proposal, restricting the category of products and reducing the penalty fees and resubmitted to Brussels.

The decree that included the site of production on the label of frozen fruits and vegetables, ready-to-eat salads, processed fish products and other foods, had upset the Italian food industry Federalimentare, which feared the imposition of additional burden to Italian producers.

This would also expose them to asymmetrical competition from foreign products that do not have the same requirements.

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“The Commission services are in the process of gathering the relevant information and facts from the Italian authorities regarding the adoption of the national legislation concerned,” a commission spokesperson said.

Italy had notified the EU of a requirement to put the country of origin on pasta and rice labels in 2016, when it gave its consent to Rome.

It later withdrew the proposal after strong criticism from 11 countries for ‘fragmenting the internal market’.

Italian Agriculture Minister Maurizio Martina said the policy was “aimed at achieving maximum transparency for the consumer, strengthen protection for producers and value chains for two key products of the Made in Italy brand. We will push this approach to see it replicated at EU level.”

In August, the country unilaterally went ahead to publish the decrees, which is set to enter into force from February 2018, after the approval of the EU.

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“Aside from the circumvention of established EU procedures, this will negatively affect the competitiveness of the relevant food sectors, undermine the smooth functioning of the single market, and hamper intra-EU and international trade,” a FoodDrinkEurope spokesperson told EURACTIV.com.

The disciplinary action from the EU could cost Italy millions of Euros, added to the loss caused by regulatory measures from their trade partners.

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