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European Agricultural Ministers spoke out against national mandatory origin labelling schemes for dairy products at the most recent Agricultural Council meeting, on July 17, with the negative results for single market trade beginning to take hold.

Such schemes have been introduced in France, Italy, Portugal, Greece, Finland and Lithuania, all for a trial period of two years. They require processors to label the origin of dairy products produced nationally, although for EU imports this is not obliged.

Since the French scheme was approved last July, Belgium has seen a 17% reduction in its dairy exports to its neighbour, compared to the previous year, with contracts for milk & milk products being renewed less and less as a result of the scheme. At the meeting, Belgium called on the Commission to undertake an impact assessment on the effects of these schemes on EU trade. This was supported by a growing number of countries, including the Czech Republic, Denmark, Germany, Luxembourg and the Netherlands, who argued that these national initiatives were distorting the single market and obstructing the free movement of goods. All favoured a return to voluntary origin labelling for the sector.

In response, EU Health Commissioner, Vytenis Andriukaitis, insisted the initiatives were “the most suitable way forward at EU level” to provide information to consumers. Disappointingly, he did not support taking urgent action to protect the integrity of the single market, rather reiterated that at the end of their trail period, each country is required to submit a report on the impact of the scheme to the Commission, who will then make a decision on their long-term viability.

Alison Graham         

European Affairs Executive

Tags: Origin Labelling