Food Law News - EU - 2006

EP Information, 21 February 2006

PROTECTED DESIGNATIONS - MEPs want to keep strict quality indications for agricultural products

The EP's Agriculture Committee passed two reports today on protected designations of origin (PDO), protected geographical indication (PGI), and traditional speciality guaranteed (TSG) agricultural products. MEPs approved the Commission proposal to amend the relevant regulations, but insisted that high standards be maintained for these products.

PDOs (such as Roquefort cheese) must be produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using a recognised, specified method. PGIs (such as Newcastle Brown Ale) require a link between at least one stage of production, processing or preparation and the region, place or country of origin. TSGs (such as the Belgian cherry-flavored beer Kriek) highlight the traditional composition or a traditional method of processing or preparation of a product.

A recent ruling by the WTO required the Commission to improve access by non-EU nationals to the EU system of granting these protected labels. The Agriculture Committee adopted two consultation reports today, giving its opinion on the proposed revisions. The reports by Friedrich-Wilhelm Graefe zu Baringdorf (Greens-EFA, DE) on the protection of geographical indications and designations of origin for agricultural products and foodstuffs and on agricultural products and foodstuffs as traditional specialities guaranteed were adopted by a large majority, (33-1-1) and (33-0-0) respectively.

The committee called on the Council to "make only those amendments to [the Regulation] which are necessary in light of the ruling of the WTO, and to debate without pressure of time those elements of the Commission proposal which are more far-reaching." It also suggested the publishing of the register on the Internet, and clarifying the current labelling system by introducing colour-codes for the different types of protection.

Although accepting private inspection bodies, MEPs also worried that giving Member States the role of registering PDOs, PGIs and TSGs would complicate the current system. Therefore, they asked the Commission to examine "whether a specific agency or one of the existing Community agencies would be better able to ensure that the Community register is administered in an efficient and uniform way."

Finally, the committee wished to maintain a clear difference between PDO, PGI and TSG labels and the actual origin of the product itself. Under the current legislation, a non-EU party can apply for protection of a product from one of its own regions, and therefore gain access to the Community protection system. This can cause consumers to think that the product in question was produced in the EU. MEPs therefore suggested that "the place of origin and processing of agricultural products and foodstuffs marketed under a registered name should be indicated on the label."

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