Commission favours food quality scheme improvements

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

A European Commission bid improve food quality labelling schemes and make them better understood by end consumers look likely to result in new guidelines and legislative proposals.

The Commission currently has a number of quality oriented labelling schemes, including geographical indication schemes Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PDI), traditional quality schemes, and marketing standards and directives that determine how products can be described.

The new communication, adopted last week, says they must be easier to understand, and EU policy must be more coherent, so that farmers get a fair return for their efforts and consumers get accurate information.

It makes a number of proposals for how to improve the schemes, including identifying the place where the product was farmed; and defining the terms ‘product of mountain farming’ and ‘traditional product’ to replace existing ‘traditional specialities guaranteed’ scheme, under which only 20 products have been registered to date.

“The Council is expected to react by providing political orientations,”​ said the Commission. This will open the way for future EU initiatives, in the way of new guidelines and legislative proposals.

Mariann Fischer Boal, commissioner for agriculture and rural development, drew attention to the benefits for farmers, saying that they have built on decades and centuries of commitment to excellence to sustain their competitiveness.

“They need to communication better with consumers about the qualities of their products. The EU is willing to help this effort. We have a golden opportunity to bring more coherence and simplicity to our various labelling and certification schemes.”


In addition to the proposals noted above, the Commission suggests improving the single market for labelling schemes, particularly for organic products. Divergent national standards are seen as a barrier to the single market, but an EU-wide organic logo is currently in the works and will be applied across the bloc from July 2010. This is expected to help improve the situation.

It also sees a need to improve protection of geographical indications and contribute to developing international marketing standards and organic products.

Under the geographical indication schemes some 3000 names have been registered, for foods, agricultural products, wines and spirits.

The Commission would also like to develop good practice guidelines for private certification schemes, which it said would reduce the potential for consumer confusion and reduce red-tape for farmers.

Although it says that these private schemes can pose a barrier to the single market, stakeholders are taking steps to address the problems so it sees no need for legislation at the moment.

Green paper

The communication has its roots in a green paper on agricultural quality, published by the Commission in October 2008. Some 560 responses to this were received, and the Czech presidency organised a high level conference in March of this year.

The communication is available online at

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