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Country of origin labelling - primary ingredient

What is the new legislation?

Regulation (EU) 2018/775 comes into effect on the 1 April 2020. It requires that where the country of origin of a final food is given and where this is not the same as the origin of the primary ingredient, then the origin of the primary ingredient must also be given.

For example, where the origin of a chicken curry is declared as Irish on the label but the chicken is not Irish, then it will be a legal requirement to also give the origin of the chicken on the label. This is to ensure the consumer is not mislead.

Origin can be indicated on a label by statements/words, pictures (map,scene), symbols (flags), words/terms or colours/designs that refer to a geographical origin.

Is there a transition period for food businesses?

No. The legislation was published in the Official Journal of the EU in May 2018 with a clear date of implementation for 1 April 2020. This allowed food businesses to prepare for the required changes to food labels.

However, foods that were placed on the market or labelled prior to 1 April 2020 can continue to be marketed until the stocks are exhausted. Anything packed or labelled after 1 April must comply in full with the new legislation.

The FSAI acknowledges the challenging situation facing food businesses as a result of the evolving COVID-19 (coronavirus) outbreak. Many food businesses will already be prepared for the necessary changes but may be restricted by activities outside of their control or by the demand for certain products. Food businesses should apply the new labels where possible and where issues arise, these should be discussed directly with your inspecting officer.

Primary Ingredient

What is the Primary Ingredient?

'Primary ingredient' is defined in Regulation 1169/2011/EC as ‘an ingredient or ingredients of a food that represents more than 50% of that food or which are usually associated with the name of the food by the consumer and for which in most cases, a quantitative indication is required’ i.e a QUID declaration.

How do I determine if my food has a primary ingredient or not?

It will be up to each food business operator to determine what is the primary ingredient of their food. When identifying this, you should take into account the different characteristics of the food, such as composition.

If the food contains an ingredient that is >50%, then this is straightforward. Where the food does not have an ingredient >50%, then the ingredient(s) most associated with the food (and where that food has a QUID declaration) will be considered as the primary ingredient.

Can a food have more than one primary ingredient?

Yes, it is possible that both aspects of the definition could be met within one final food i.e there could be one ingredient which is more than 50% of final food, but also another ingredient that is associated with the food. An example here would be a strawberry yogurt. The strawberry in the ingredient that is associated with the food and the milk is the ingredient which is >50% of the final food.

Or it may be the case that none of the ingredients are present at levels >50% of the final food but more than one ingredient could be ‘associated’ with the food (requiring a QUID declaration).

Is it possible that there is no primary ingredient?

Yes. Where none of the ingredients are present in a final food >50%, or none of the ingredients are ‘associated’ with the food (and so are not QUIDed on the label), then there will be no primary ingredient.

What if the primary ingredient is a compound ingredient?

Compound ingredients are ingredients of a product that have their own ingredients e.g. where jam is used as an ingredient of a food.

Each food business must identify the primary ingredient(s) based on the legal definition. It is possible that a compound ingredient could be identified as the primary ingredient. Each food business will need to decide what information is appropriate for the consumer for the particular product.

Consideration must also be given to the consumers understanding, expectation and interest in the origin indication of the primary ingredient. For example, for a chocolate cake, is the consumer more interested in where the flour originates or where the wheat that made the wheat flour was grown.

Ultimately, the information given on the label must not be misleading to consumers.

If a label provides a QUID declaration for many of the ingredients on a voluntary basis, will this mean that the origin of all of these ingredients will need to be declared?

No. The definition of primary ingredient(s) must be considered. While many ingredients can be QUIDed on a voluntary basis on the label, this does not mean that the ingredients are associated with the food. The FBO must determine the primary ingredient(s). 

'Packed in', 'Produced in' Type Statements

If my label states ‘Packed in’, is this an indication of origin of the food?

The term ‘Packed in’ is not considered to be an indication to consumers of the origin of the food. It is simply stating where the product was ‘packed’. Other similar expressions include ‘Packed for X’ or even ‘Produced for X’. Again, these are not within the scope of the new legislation as they do not imply an origin.

If my label states ‘Produced in’, is this an indication of origin of the food?

The declaration ‘produced in’ is considered an obvious origin indication for consumers. Other similar terms that are considered an origin indication include ‘Made in’ or ‘Manufactured in’.

What about ‘Product of Ireland’ or ‘Produced in Germany’ statements on food labels?

Such declarations are obviously referring to origin and so origin of the primary ingredient must be declared if different from the declared origin.

Name of the Food, Trade Marks and Protected Designation of Origin

Are trade marks that refer to origin within the scope of the legislation?

While Registered Trade Marks include an indication of country of origin or place of provenance are within the scope of this legislation, it will only apply when more specific rules are put in place (the EU Commission will be developing these additional implementing measures, although no time frame is set).

All other trade marks or brand name with reference to a geographical indication fall within the scope of this legislation.

Do Protected Designations of Origin fall under the scope of this legislation?

Geographical indications (PGO, PGI) protected under Regulation 1151/2012/EC do not fall under the scope of this legislation at present, as additional specific rules must be adopted by the Commission.

If the name of the food refers to a geographical indication, is this within the scope of the legislation?

It is necessary to consider the types of names that may be labelled on a food to determine if an origin indication is required.

  • Legal names – this is a name defined in product specific legislation and which must be used for the name of the food. Legal names do not fall within the scope of the legislation. An example is ‘London Gin’. This is a legal name set down in the spirit drinks legislation but does not indicate the origin of the gin.
  • Customary name – this is a name that is accepted as the name of the food by consumers of the Member States where the food is sold. This name needs no further explanation for the consumer. Customary names that include geographic terms that indicate origin, but whose common understanding is not an indication of origin or place of provenance, should not be included in the scope of this legislation. Therefore, the likes of ‘Yorkshire pudding’ or ‘Frankfurter’ would not be considered as an indication of origin, as it is commonly understood by consumers that the product did not come from Yorkshire or Frankfurt.

This aspect of the labelling, however, will need to be considered on a case-by-case basis, where different interpretations exist between MS.

Presentation/Declaration on the label

How must the origin of a primary ingredient be declared on the label?

The origin of a primary ingredient must be declared in one of two ways.

1. By referring to one of the following geographical areas:

(i) ‘EU’, ‘non-EU’ or ‘EU and non-EU’; or
 
(ii) Region, or any other geographical area either within several Member States or within third countries, if defined as such under public international law or well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
 
(iii) FAO Fishing area, or sea or freshwater body if defined as such under international law or well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
 
(iv) Member State(s) or third country(ies); or
 
(v) Region, or any other geographical area within a Member State or within a third country, which is well understood by normally informed average consumers; or

(vi) The country of origin or place of provenance in accordance with specific Union provisions applicable for the primary ingredient(s) as such
   

2. Using the following statement or a statement with similar wording likely to have the same meaning for the consumer:

'(name of the primary ingredient) do/does not originate from (the country of origin or place of provenance of the food)' or any similar wording likely to have the same meaning for the consumer.

Where on the label must this information be declared?

The origin declaration of the primary ingredient must be in the same field of vision on the label as the origin of the final food. This applies both where the origin is given in words or in graphical form.

In addition, the legislation requires that where the country of origin or place of provenance of the final food is given in words, the origin declaration for the primary ingredient should be appear in the same field of vision as the origin of the final and using a font size with an x-height of at least 75% of the x-height of the country of origin of the final food

Is there a minimum font size required for the indication of origin of the primary ingredient?

Yes. The legislation requires that the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient be declared in a font size which is not smaller than the minimum font size required under Regulation (EU) 1169/2011 i.e. >1.2mm of the x-height.

Is it necessary to repeat the country of origin of the primary ingredient(s) each time the indication of origin of the final food is given?

Yes, it is a requirement to repeat the country of origin in the same field of vision each time the origin of the final food is declared. This means that for each flag, symbol, graphic or text that indicates the origin of the final food, the label must also indicate the origin of the primary ingredient(s).

Region designations

Can I combine geographical indications when declaring origin of a primary ingredient?

No. You can only choose from one of the listed geographical indications below. The legislation does not allow for the combination of these different geographical indications.
 
(i) ‘EU’, ‘non-EU’ or ‘EU and non-EU’; or
 
(ii) Region, or any other geographical area either within several Member States or within third countries, if defined as such under public international law or well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
 
(iii) FAO Fishing area, or sea or freshwater body if defined as such under international law or well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
 
(iv) Member State(s) or third country(ies); or
 
(v) Region, or any other geographical area within a Member State or within a third country, which is well understood by normally informed average consumers; or
 
(vi) The country of origin or place of provenance in accordance with specific Union provisions applicable for the primary ingredient(s) as such;

However, it is possible to combine within a specific group i.e, for point (iv) you can choose to declare the name of a MS and the name of a third country.

Can the origin indication be a combination such as ‘Chicken from Ireland and Thailand’?

Yes, point (iv) allows for the name of the ‘Member State(s) or third country(ies) to be declared, so it is possible to declare the likes of ‘Chicken from Ireland (which is the Member State) and Thailand (which is the third country)'. Therefore, it is possible to combine within a specific geographical indication.

General

Do the new rules apply to loose food?

No, the legislation only applies to prepacked foods which provide an indication of origin of the final food on the label.

What about business-to-business supply of food?

The origin declaration of primary ingredients applies to the labelling of foods intended for caterers etc. In this case, the rules apply to business to business supply, where the mandatory food information is made available by the food business on the commercial documents.

This ensures that the receiving food business will have all of the information they require should they need it for labelling their prepacked final foods.

If water is present in quantities >50% in my food e.g soup, is this the primary ingredient?

If the amount of water in the soup is >50%, then this would meet the definition of a primary ingredient. However, an origin declaration for the water is only required if the origin of the water differs from the origin of the final soup.


Last reviewed: 31/3/2020

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