Poland’s Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development informed the EU commission that it will introduce mandatory country of origin labelling for potatoes. The request, which was made on 14th November, represents the most recent example of EU Member States insisting on stricter labelling of origins of foodstuffs. While the EU already requires such labelling for fruits and vegetables, these requirements do not apply to fresh potatoes.
The general rules for food labelling in the EU are set by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (hereinafter, FIR). Article 26 of the FIR already provides for general rules and requirements with respect to the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of food. Article 26(2)(a) of the FIR requires the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance where its omission could mislead the consumer as to the true country of origin or place of provenance of the final food in question, in particular if the information accompanying the food or the label as a whole would otherwise imply that the food has a different country of origin or place of provenance. Furthermore, Article 39(2) of the FIR provides that “By means of paragraph 1, Member States may introduce measures concerning the mandatory indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of foods only where there is a proven link between certain qualities of the food and its origin or provenance. When notifying such measures to the Commission, Member States shall provide evidence that the majority of consumers attach significant value to the provision of that information”.
The Draft Regulation submitted by Poland’s Ministry for Agriculture and Rural Development proposes to introduce an obligation to provide information on the country of origin of potatoes at the place where they are sold or on the packaging. It would apply to fresh potatoes sold loose or packed, but not to processed potatoes. According to the regulatory impact assessment provided with the notification, the objective of the Draft Regulation “is to provide consumers with information on the country of origin of potatoes available in retail trade”. In addition, the impact assessment states that the introduction of the obligation would contribute to aligning the requirements concerning the identification of the country of origin of potatoes with the COOL requirement for fresh fruits and vegetables covered by specific marketing standards at EU level by Regulation (EU) No 543/2011.