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A taste for Europe

EU quality labelling system protects 1 000 names used to designate traditional agricultural produce and foods. On 15 February 2011, Piacentinu Ennese, a saffron-flavoured sheep’s cheese from Italy, became the one-thousandth name registered under the EU’s quality labelling system.

The system helps protect and promote the brand names of Europe’s traditional agricultural produce and foods. It safeguards the work of thousands of farmers and artisanal food producers in preserving and building the EU’s rural heritage. It also gives consumers confidence in the foods they buy that carry the label.

Once the brand name of a traditional agricultural product or food is registered under one of three quality marks, the EU works to ensure that others cannot use the protected name to mislabel their products.

For example, only cheese made in a certain way from specific sheep breeds and originating from the province of Enna in Sicily now has the right to be labelled as ‘Piacentinu Ennese’. Producers of the cheese can now display the logo of the EU’s Protected Designations of Origin quality mark.

Since its creation in 1992, the system has registered products such as Parma ham, Roquefort cheese and Melton Mowbray pork pies under one of three labels:

Protected Designations of Origin: covers agricultural products and foodstuffs produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised methods.

Protected Geographical Indications: covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to a geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the specified area.

Traditional Specialities Guaranteed: highlights the traditional character of foods, either in composition or how it is produced.

So far, 505 foods are registered as PDO, 465 as PGI and 30 as TSG. Registration is not automatic. The EU must first vet an application and other producers can oppose an application.

The EU’s wines and spirits are protected by separate labelling systems.

Improving quality labelling

The EU now wants to improve the quality labelling system. The Commission made legislative proposals in December 2010 to streamline the system and make the labels easier to use and understand.

PDO and PGI registered foods had a wholesale turnover of about €14bn in 2007, according to a study. More on the EU’s food quality labelling system. PM & Picture © European Commission

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