Industry reacts to Italy's origin law

By Niamh Michail

- Last updated on GMT

© GettyImages/Albina Kidinova
© GettyImages/Albina Kidinova

Related tags Member states European union Eu

All food and drink produced or packaged in Italy must give the name and address of the processing factory on pack, or face a heavy fine. We asked food manufacturers how it will affect them.

According to the legislation which was published last month​, manufacturers must indicate on pack the address of the Italian factory where a food product was either manufactured or packaged.

Italy is also trialling mandatory origin labelling for dairy products along with other member states such as France, Greece and Finland. But this legislation affects all categories of processed food and drink that is made or packed in Italy, and has been described as "backdoor protectionism"​by critics.

A spokesperson for Nestlé said the legislation will not affect its products produced in Italy as it already printed the country of processing and manufacture on everything it makes locally.

However, the company opposes mandatory origin labelling in principle.

“The single market is one of the EU’s greatest achievements. A well-functioning single market stimulates competition, enhances efficiency, helps cut prices and has been instrumental to the success of our industry in the EU," ​the spokesperson said.

“National measures on mandatory country of origin labelling (COOL) make food supply chains less efficient, create unnecessary food waste, further encourage protectionism and fragment the EU single market, negatively affecting intra EU trade. 

"Nestlé continues to push for EU-wide, harmonised rules that allow companies to continue marketing their products without compromising their ability to procure raw materials from different sources and to produce at competitive costs in the EU.”

Meanwhile Italian manufacturer Barilla, which also already prints the name and address of its Italian processing plants, said it ​believes “the choice of raw materials should depend only on their quality and not their origin.”

In order to promote transparency for all consumers regarding the origin of its raw materials and production processes, it said it created an Italian language portal​ ​called which 'See for yourself' ​to show how its pasta is made.

Food law specialist and managing director of Hylobates Consultancy Luca Bucchini said: “In principle Italian officers should ignore this piece of law. They are bo­und to act within the law, and it is well established that EU law enjoys supremacy. Moreover, the way it was adopted means it is, regardless of contents, and according to European Court of Justice (ECJ) case law, simply inapplicable.

“Authorities, if they apply this piece of legislation, may face serial reversals in court, with crippling legal fees across cases. But most food businesses will be cowed into ‘compliance’ for fear of a rather hefty fine and of products being seized.”

Fines could be around €15,000.

“The Italian government should not be surprised if complaints against discriminatory measures which penalise Italian products fail to muster much solidarity from the Commission or other member states,” ​Bucchini added.

The law has drawn criticism from stakeholders across the food, beverage and nutrition sectors.

The European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance said: “The decree will impose an additional, unjustified regulatory burden on food business operators (FBOs), as well as making an FBO switching between third party manufacturers more difficult and more expensive, given the added labelling costs associated with such a move.”

Trade association SpiritsEurope said it would result in additional costs and logistics complexities will result.  “That can hardly make sense when the whole ethos of the internal market is to remove barriers to free movement between member states. 

“The proposed measure, if enacted, would also set a very unwelcome precedent; it would become administratively nightmarish to trade in the EU if all 28 member states required national and 3rd country producers to include the place of production on the label.”

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