EU brings in mandatory origin labelling for food from Israeli settlements

By Niamh Michail contact

- Last updated on GMT

Israel's foreign ministry warned that the decision could have implications for EU-Israeli relations.
Israel's foreign ministry warned that the decision could have implications for EU-Israeli relations.

Related tags: Israel, Eu

Food produced in Israeli-occupied territories, considered illegal under international law, must be clearly labelled as such in EU countries - a decision that has provoked strong opposition from Israel.

Yesterday the EU issued an interpretative notice​ on origin labelling for products made in territories occupied by Israel since 1967 such as the West Bank, the Golan Heights and East Jerusalem, that it considers to be in violation of international law. 

Fresh fruit and vegetables, wine, honey, olive oil, eggs, poultry, organic products and cosmetics produced in these areas by Israeli settlers must say, for instance, ‘Product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)'​. Processed foods are exempt from the regulation.

The EU has said that the decision, which comes after a three year delay, was a technical step but this was dismissed as “baseless and cynical” ​by Israel which withdrew its ambassador to the EU, Lars Faaborg-Andersen, in protest.

The notice does not bring into force any new legislative rules, but rather reflect the Commission’s understanding of current legislation. “There is indeed a demand for clarity from consumers, economic operators and national authorities about existing Union legislation on origin information of products from Israeli-occupied territories,” ​it said. 

The EU has said that clear labelling will help consumers to make informed purchasing decisions.

‘Product from the West Bank (Israeli settlement)’

For products produced by settlers in the West Bank, Brussels says it would be misleading for producers to simply say 'Made in the West Bank'​,

“Even if they would designate the wider area or territory (…), the omission of the additional geographical information that the product comes from Israeli settlements would mislead the consumer as to the true origin of the product. In such cases the expression 'Israeli settlement' or equivalent needs to be added, in brackets, for example.”

Israel’s Economic Ministry estimated the economic impact of the decision to be around €47m, according to Reuters. This represents about 20% of the €186m-€280m of goods produced in settlements each year. The total value of goods traded between Israel and the EU is €28bn.

Retailers, importers and distributors in Britain, Denmark and Belgium already label goods from Israeli settlements.

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The Israeli government said it was “surprised and even angered by the fact that the EU chooses to implement a double standard against Israel, while ignoring 200 territorial disputes taking place today around the world, including within [the EU] or right on [Israel’s] doorstep”.

But the decision has been welcomed by some. A petition​ that has so far received over 550 signatures including from prominent Israeli thinkers, says it hopes that other countries will follow suit.

The international community distinguishing between Israel and the settlements is a step that could help promote a peace agreement, and it will also strengthen Israel’s overall status in the world and will undermine attempts to delegitimize Israel. This kind of distinction can also serve to reduce the current levels of tension, fear and despair, among both Israelis and Palestinians.”

For products from Palestine that do not come from settlements, the Commission suggests manufacturers and producers could say ‘'product from the West Bank (Palestinian product), ‘product from Gaza’ ​or 'product from Palestine'.

Enforcement will remain the responsibility of member states.

 

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1 comment

EU Disneyland

Posted by David Feder,

This could actually prove beneficial to Israel in that a lawsuit would bring to the foreground the cold hard facts that not only does no such legal state/country called Palestine exist, nor has it ever existed, but that there is no such legal thing as an "occupation" and therefore no such thing as an "Israeli settlement" either.
It does not matter what your politics are -- we are speaking strictly of facts of international law. Whether you hate Jews or love Jews or are indifferent to Jews, or no matter how desperately you wish it to be so, from a strictly legal standpoint Israel is not occupying even a square millimeter that does not legally belong to it and no such legal national entity as "Palestine" exists.
Thus, the EUs action is illegal and in violation of its own charter and UN law and, if adjudicated according to international law in the international court, will force these facts out into the open and, hopefully, once and for all end this steaming lie.

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