- François-Xavier Branthôme
On 27 February, the Italian Ministry of Agricultural Policy, Food and Forestry announced that the interministerial decree introducing compulsory place-of-origin labeling for tomato products had been published in the Official Journal after being signed by ministers Maurizio Martina and Carlo Calenda.
The decree includes a trial period of two years for the new labeling system, according to the standard already applied for milk products, pasta and rice. This decree concerns canned tomatoes and tomato paste, as well as juice and sauces that include at least 50% tomato.
"We are traveling down the path of transparency for labeling and quality," explained Minister Maurizio Martina, "particularly relevant for the strategic industry of processing tomatoes. The new labels will help reinforce good relations between those who produce and those who process our products. In this way, we will defend not only our products, but also the work of our factories and the rights of our consumers. We are convinced that this choice should be extended to the European level, thereby ensuring the full implementation of the 2011 European regulation EU1169. Citizens have the right to clearly know the origin of raw materials used in the food that ends up on their tables."
This new policy includes the obligation to mention the following elements on labels for the packaging of tomato products, juice and sauces produced in Italy:
• Country of cultivation: name of the country in which the tomato was grown;
• Country of processing: name of the country in which the tomato was processed.
• If cultivation and/or processing are carried out in more than one country, the following indications can be used, depending on the origin: EU countries, non-EU counties, EU and non-EU countries.
• Only in cases where all operations are carried out in Italy is it possible to use the description: "Origin of the tomato: Italy".
These indications must be positioned in an obvious place on the label in order to be easily identifiable, clearly readable and impossible to erase. The scheme includes a period for companies to adapt to the new system until they have completely used up the labels and packaging already produced.
The decree will expire in the event of full implementation of article 26 paragraph 3 of Regulation (EU) 1169/2011, which makes provision for cases in which the country of origin or the place of origin of the main ingredient used for the preparation of the product must be indicated.
The publication of this decree has been unanimously welcomed by operators of the Italian industry, specifically by the Regional Councilor for Agriculture in Emilia Romagna, Mrs. Simona Caselli, and by the President of the Pomodoro Nord Italia IO, Mr. Tiberio Rabboni, who both see this decision as "a fundamental progression in the process towards transparency of information intended for consumers" and who have underlined the importance of "extending this labeling system to the rest of Europe, thanks to a complete implementation of European regulation 1169 from 2011."
Sources: OI Pomodoro Nord Italia, politicheagricole.it, MIPAAF