The law would allow manufacturers to use the label "Produkt polski" along with a logo to be designed by the Ministry of Agriculture.
Under the regulation, meat products may bear the logo if the animal was born, reared and slaughtered in the Republic of Poland. For products of animal origin other than meat, such as dairy products or eggs, the animals must be reared in Poland.
Processed products may bear the logo if they are manufactured in Poland. Ingredients sourced from abroad may be used, provided they cannot otherwise be sourced from Poland and do not make up over 25% of the final product’s mass at the time of manufacturing, excluding water used during the production process.
“Research on the need to inform Polish consumers about the country of origin of foodstuffs clearly shows that the need for information about the origin of a range of foodstuffs is in high demand amongst consumers. This requirement is significant and therefore should not be ignored,” reads the draft law's accompanying statement to the European Commission.
“Furthermore, consumers do not always understand what ‘place of origin’ actually means when displayed on the labels of various food products. They find it difficult to recognise which stage of production was carried out in the country from which the food is supposed to originate.”
Any products bearing a logo or making some kind of on-pack 'made in Poland' claim that do not comply with the requirements laid down by the act may remain on the market until 31 December 2017.
During the act’s reading in Polish parliament earlier this month, deputy minister of agriculture Jacek Bogucki said:"We give the possibility of voluntary labelling, but on the other hand, prohibit labelling in a way that causes falsification."
Companies breaching these new requirements could see themselves fined 10% of their revenue for the product in question, according to Polish trade journal TopAgrar.
The law, which was passed by Poland’s lower chamber of parliament, the Sejm, has to go through its higher chamber, the Senat, before coming into force on 1 January 2017.
Single market rules
Poland notified the Commission of the draft regulation in July this year and so far the Commission, Spain and Sweden have commented on the regulation. As the dialogue is still ongoing, no details of these comments could be made public, a Commission spokesperson said.
However, in the past the Commission has found similar member state schemes to be in breach of article 34 of the principles of the European Union, which guarantees the free movement of goods across the single market.
In 2002, the European Court ruled against a German scheme which allowed manufacturers of finished food products to bear the label “Markenqualität aus deutschen Landen” ('Quality label for products made in Germany').
“Such a scheme, set up in order to promote the distribution of agricultural and food products made in Germany and for which the advertising message underlines the German origin of the relevant products, may encourage consumers to buy the products with the […] label to the exclusion of imported products,” the court said.
It also ruled against Ireland's ‘Guaranteed Irish’ symbol, part of a three-year programme to promote Irish products, as this could also impact imports and the volume of trade between member states.
Discriminatory retail tax
Polish lawmakers recently provoked the ire of European business association EuroCommerce with its new retail tax, which means large foreign retail chains will pay up to five times more tax than preferentially-treated local retailers.
EuroCommerce, which said the tax discriminated against foreign businesses, asked the European Commission to investigate the tax's compliance with EU law.