As Spain becomes the latest country to bring in mandatory country of origin labeling for milk and milk-based products, the European Dairy Association (EDA) has blasted the European Commission’s „laissez-faire” approach.
The country’s Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries, Food and Environment notified the European Commission of its draft legislation on indicating the origin of milk used as a raw material on the labeling of milk and milk-based products.
This will be trialed for two years, in accordance with EU rules, and will affect milk and milk products from all species of animal from slaughter that are manufactured and marketed in Spain.
Dairy-based products that contain 50% milk by weight or more will be required to state the origin of the milk, which must be displayed in the same size and font color used for the ingredients list.
Article five of the proposed legislation also contains provisions for adding voluntary information on the regional origin.
The Spanish authorities have established a series of specific requirements for the voluntary information of the regional name “in order to avoid, as far as possible, this information being confusing for consumers”.
This stipulates that the milk must have been entirely sourced from the region or territory; that this region must be Spanish and that it must not “match up” with a protected name under the EU’s PDO or PGI scheme for the same type of product.
„According to consumer habit surveys and public consultation, the origin of milk and milk products is certainly information of interest to the majority of consumers in Spain. In addition, this information generally tends to be perceived as a positive attribute associated with the quality of the product,” reads the draft legislation.
The European Dairy Association (EDA) strongly opposes origin labeling for milk and dairy, arguing it will negatively impact producers located near border regions (who may source their milk from dairies in different countries), push up consumer prices and hinder trade in the single market.
France, Greece, Portugal, Finland, and Italy are just some of the EU countries that have legislated to trial origin labeling.
„It seems that the EU Commission does not need Brexit to end the single market,” an EDA spokesperson told us.
„When the French – a milk and dairy exporting country like Spain – started the waltz of the national origin labeling decrees, we asked the EU Commission at all levels to defend one of the key pillars of the Union: the single market. The EU Commission failed to do so – and if we can trust our sources, the EU Commission had decided at that time to follow a ‘laissez-faire’ approach at political level despite the clear verdict of the legal services of the Commission.
The protection of the national farming sector against competition within the single market was always claimed by politicians in their speeches when introducing the national origin labeling decrees we have seen so far (and there are eight right now), but within the legal texts they prefer to talk about consumer information.”
Manufacturing trade group FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) has also spoken against the tide of origin labeling that has been sweeping across European countries for products ranging from dairy to processed meat; rice and wheat to tomatoes.
“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 spokesperson said last week as Italy announced it would be introducing origin labeling for processed tomatoes. „The situation is no longer tenable for producers who are facing ever more additional burdens and barriers to trade.”