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Ecommerce, mandatory information on the label in the language of the country of destination

The supply of food products through ecommerce it must always be accompanied by the provision of mandatory information, also on the label, in the official language of the country of destination.

The European Commission, in its reply 11.6.21 to a parliamentary question, confirms what has already been clarified in Food Information Regulation. (1) Neglecting, however, the possibility of applying a leaflet on the package.

However, the problem underlying the question is broader. How can 290 SMEs, 99,2% of EU agri-food production, apply such a varied and complex set of rules? The solution is around the corner, you just need the will.

Ecommerce, the language of the mandatory information on the label

Question 3.5.21 - signed by the Italian MEP Marco Dreosto, member of the ENVI Commission (Environment, Public Health and Food Safety) to the European Parliament - concerns the 'prepacked foods offered for sale by means of distance communication techniques. '

The reg. EU 1169/11 in fact provides that 'all mandatory information is available at the time of delivery', as well as before the choice of purchase, even in the case of distance selling of prepackaged foods (article 14).
Moreover, many companies that ship their products to various Member States do not always have products labeled in the language of the destination country.

Ecommerce, is a leaflet enough?

The Italian MEP therefore asked the European Commission to answer the following questions:

'In case products labeled in a language other than that of the country of destination are delivered, the 'availability' of the information can also be made only through a leaflet / accompanying document, inserted in the packaging, containing all the information in the language of the country of delivery ?

Or Article 12 (2) of Regulation (EU) no. 1169/2011, according to which 'the mandatory information on prepackaged foods appears directly on the packaging or on a label affixed to it'? (question E-001966/2021)

Country you go, language you apply

The answer offered on 11.6.21 by the Commissioner for Health and Food Safety Stella Kyriakides is as obvious as predictable. 'In the case of prepackaged foods offered for sale through remote communication techniques, all mandatory information is available at the time of delivery ' (EU reg. 1169/11, article 14).

 'Article 15 it also provides that

- the mandatory food information appears in a language that is easily understood by consumers in the Member States where the food is marketed and which

- on their territory, the Member States in which the food is marketed may require that the information be given in one or more of the official languages ​​of the Union. ' (EU reg. 1169/11, article 15).

Ecommerce, label and / or leaflet?

The mandatory information on prepackaged foods, the Commissioner continues, 'appear on the packaging or on a label attached to it'. As is in fact established in the same regulation (EU) 1169/11, in article 12.2.

'In conclusion, for prepacked food products offered for sale by means of distance communication techniques, all mandatory information on the food is then provided on the packaging or on a label affixed to it in a language that is easily understood by consumers of the Member State in which the food product is marketed. '

Labeling, a leaflet is enough

On closer inspection, it is sufficient to include the mandatory information relating to prepacked food products - in the official language applied by the Member State of destination of the goods - on an accompanying sticker or leaflet. With the sole precaution - in the case of compound foods that contain or may contain non-obvious allergens - to attach the sheet to the individual package.

The "labeling" it is in fact defined as'any mention, indication, trademark or trade mark, image or symbol referring to a food and appearing on any packaging, document, notice, label, tape or band accompanying or relating to that food'(EU reg. 1169/11, article 2.2.j).

Ecommerce, information at a distance

The real obstacle, for small operators in the agri-food chain who intend to sell their products through ecommerce, it is represented by the obligation to make the information mandatory 'available before the conclusion of the purchase, on the support of distance selling'. And in this case, where the offer is not limited to individual EU countries, the official languages ​​to be applied are 23. (2)

The linguistic requirement it is, moreover, essential for the correct information to the consumer, and is often lacking. With the paradox that the first to violate these rules are the giants. In sales online, as Amazon teaches, but also in the food delivery of the latest generation (3,4). As well as in sales offline, even in pharmacies as recently seen in the Foodspring case. (5)

Single market, SMEs and micro-enterprises. The problem to be solved

99,2% of companies of food processing is represented by SMEs, about 290 thousand companies, which account for 58,1% of employment, 42,8% of added value and 42,8% of turnover. Even 79,8% of the companies in the sector are micro-enterprises. That is to say by organizations with a turnover of less than 2 million euros and less than 9 employees, which in turn account for 14,2% of the employed, 6,8% of the added value and 5,3% of the turnover in the first manufacturing sector of the Old Continent (Food Drink Europe, 2017 data).

Small operators on which our food depends, the preservation of traditions and rural landscapes need clear instructions on all mandatory information and optional information allowed to enter the various food products in the individual territories. This opportunity was offered, only in words, with the Food Labeling Information System (FLIS). However, it turned out to be a FLOP, the bad copy of a database of EU rules only, not even national ones, completely unsuitable for the purposes. (6)

Consumer information, you need a   complete and interactive

'Under the coordination of the European Commission, it is necessary to collect both the common rules (EEC, CE, EU), and those that belong to the so-called concurrent legislation, at state and local level (Regions, Provinces, Municipalities), where applicable '. (7)

This work it is indispensable to millions of operators in the EU, from farm to fork, and should be developed by contractor competent. Member States must collect the consolidated texts of local laws in addition to common law, in English as well as their own. With the burden of keeping the   of national rules, under penalty of their inapplicability. AI solutions (Artificial Intelligence), already adopted in every language translation app, can be usefully applied to the regulatory texts only.

Dario Dongo


(1) Dario Dongo. Ecommerce, what responsibilities? GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 24.2.18/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/ecommerce-quali-responsabilità

(2) E-commerce, which news in which languages? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements). 14.2.18/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.foodagriculturerequirements.com/archivio-notizie/domande-e-risposte/e-commerce-quali-notizie-in-quali-lingue-risponde-l-avvocato-dario-dongo

(3) Dario Dongo. Amazon, new complaints to Antitrust and ICQRF. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 7.2.19/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/amazon-nuove-denunce-a-antitrust-e-icqrf

(4) Marta Strinati. Gorillas and dark stores, the new frontier of distribution. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 17.6.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/mercati/gorillas-e-dark-store-la-nuova-frontiera-della-distribuzione

(5) Dario Dongo. Foodspring, paleo - outlaw bars and labels. GIFTS (Great Italian Food Trade). 2.4.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/consum-attori/foodspring-paleo-barrette-ed-etichette-fuorilegge

(6) Dario Dongo. FLIS - FLOP. The European food labeling database falls short of expectations. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade). 13.1.21/XNUMX/XNUMX, https://www.greatitalianfoodtrade.it/etichette/flis-flop-il-database-europeo-sull-etichettatura-degli-alimenti-delude-le-aspettative

(7) Dario Dongo. Labels and advertising, principles and rules. Edagricole-Il Sole 24 Ore (Bologna, 2004)

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