Homelabels'Breakfast Directives'. Unknown origin on jams, juices and milk

'Breakfast Directives'. Unknown origin on jams, juices and milk

On 19 February 2024, the Special Agriculture Council reached an agreement with Parliament and the European Commission on the draft revision of theBreakfast Directives', without however introducing the obligation to indicate on the label the origin of the fruit used in the juices and jams, nor that of the preserved milk.

Member States and MEPs have instead decided to require those who package honey to specify on the label not only the origin, already required since 2001, but also the percentages of honey from each individual harvesting country. Serious damage is predicted for farmers, breeders and consumers. #CleanSpades.

1) 'Breakfast Directives', the reform

The reform of the 'Breakfast Directives' updates the marketing standards – i.e. the EU rules on composition, sales denomination, labeling and presentation of four categories of food products:

– honey (dir. 2001/110/EC)

– fruit juices and other similar products intended for human consumption (dir. 2001/112/EC)

– fruit jams, jellies and marmalades and chestnut cream (dir. 2001/113/EC)

– some types of preserved milk, partially or totally dehydrated (dir. 2001/114/EC). (1)

2) Fruit juices, jams, marmalades, preserved milk. Origin unknown

The European Commission had justified the reform with the need to 'protect the interests of consumers and ensure the free movement of such products in the internal market'. With the specific aim, among others, ofproposing the extension of compulsory indications of origin or provenance to certain products'.

The three institutions – European Parliament, – Council and Commission – have however decided to keep the origin unknown on the label of:

– fruit used in fruit juices, jams and marmalades

– milk used to produce preserved milk.

3) Origin of fruit and milk unknown, what consequences

Italy, in the last twenty years, has recorded a collapse in the production of pears (-50%) and peaches (-30%), as well as table grapes (-20%). (2) Only apples have resisted, with a very slight increase (+5%) that however presents environmental and public health criticalities linked to the widespread use of pesticides. (3)

Coldiretti, his 'brother-in-law minister' and the MEP president of his Filiera Italia, Paolo De Castro, however voted in favor of those who want to hide the origin of the fruit. Filiera Italia members (e.g. Conad, Carrefour, CRAI, DimmidiSì) will thus be able to favor foreign fruit, without telling the consumer anything.

The big winner in this game is the German industry, which will thus be able to continue to hide the use of non-EU fruit and milk, possibly from the Ukraine in socio-economic and environmental dumping. Another dark friend of Coldiretti, Inalpi SpA, will in turn be able to benefit from the non-obligation to indicate the origin of the milk. (4)

4) Honey, the impossible labels

The mandatory indication of origin on the honey label had already been introduced in 2001. It would have been enough to extend this obligation to honey blends, since it had been left to the choices of individual Member States. However, the European institutions were not satisfied with this and demanded that all honey packages specify:

– the exact quantities (with a 5% tolerance) of honeys of each different origin on the label. Even on single-portion jars (< 30 g), where countries are to be indicated by abbreviations (ISO 3166). With the only

– option for individual Member States not to impose the indication of the exact quantities of honeys following the first four honeys of different origins, if these represent more than 50% of the total in the blend.

In fact, companies packaging commercial honey blends (EU and non-EU, according to season, availability and price) for supermarket shelves will have to reorganise their facilities and print new labels at or near every processing shift. Costs will increase a lot and so will selling prices, just because of the overkill on percentages. (5)

5) Provisional conclusions

The European Parliament is called upon to formally approve this reform - whose (sparse) basic contents have already been analysed (1) - at its plenary session on 11-12 March 2024.

Better would be to disapprove the text and postpone until the next legislature a reform that takes into account both the legitimate interests of farmers and breeders and the needs of consumers. (6)

If instead the reform will be approved, as is very likely, operators will have two years to apply the new rules after its entry into force, within 15 days of its publication.

Dario Dongo

#CleanSpades

Footnotes

(1) Dario Dongo, Alessandra Mei. Honey, fruit juices, jams and marmalades, dehydrated milk. Proposals for the reform of marketing standards in the EU. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 3.5.23

(2) Stefano Vaccari (general director of CREA, National Council for Research in Agricultural Economics). The long crisis of Italian agriculture: today 10% less is produced than twenty years ago. Agrisole. 11.1.24 http://tinyurl.com/4nm88rwz

(3) Alessandra Mei. Pesticides, from the apple orchards of Val Venosta to the Alpine peaks. The study on 'Nature'. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.2.24

(4) Dario Dongo. Inalpi, Coldiretti and Compral Latte. #Clean shovels. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 21.8.21

(5) The regulatory frenzy had gone even further, to the European Parliament. See the previous article by Dario Dongo. Breakfast directives, the European Parliament raises the barriers against non-EU honey. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 12.12.23

(6) The consumer who buys a jar of non-EU honey at €6/kg, instead of Italian or French honey at €10-12/kg, is really interested in spending €1 more just to know if the mixture does it have x% Argentine honey and y% Ukrainian honey, or do you prefer to save money and are satisfied with knowing the countries of origin?

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Dario Dongo, lawyer and journalist, PhD in international food law, founder of WIISE (FARE - GIFT - Food Times) and Égalité.

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