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The French national decree, establishing the mandatory requirement for French dairy products to include a label of origin, has been annulled.

The decree was first introduced in 2016 (notably during a period of extreme market difficulties in the dairy sector).  The French government claimed that the information on origin was important for consumers in order to signify the quality of the product. While, initially the decree was established for a two year “testing period”, this was extended twice in the time since, despite the reservations of the EU Commission Legal Services about its compatibility with EU Single Market rules.

A number of other EU countries took inspiration from this French decree and introduced their own mandatory national origin labelling requirements for dairy products, notably in Finland, Italy, Portugal and Spain

The decree however has now been annulled following a European Court of Justice ruling in July, which confirmed that mandatory national origin labelling schemes contradict the European project. In his ruling Advocate General Gerard Hogan said only if the origin of a foodstuff has a tangible impact on the product itself, national origin labelling can be considered. “Any other conclusion would pave the way … to purely nationalistic – even chauvinistic – instincts,”.

Mandatory origin labelling remains on the EU agenda however, with new proposals expected from the EU Commission in 2022, specifically for dairy and dairy ingredient products amongst a number of other sectors. However, the proposal for what format this origin labelling will potentially take – EU/non-EU, national or otherwise – is yet to be decided. ICOS is following these discussions intensively and advocating for a continuation of the current voluntary system.

Alison Graham – European Affairs Executive