The Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic and the State Agricultural and Food Inspection draw attention to the need to comply with the requirements of legal regulations in the area of informing consumers about the true place of origin of food.
The above relates to an urgent situation concerning a number of food which have a misleading reference on the label to the place of provenance or place of origin of the product. These are cases where the labelling of a food gives the impression that it is related to a geographical place where it is not produced, while at the same time the true place of origin of the food is not indicated on the food or on the label.
In similar cases, the consumer is clearly being misled as to the true place of origin of the food, in unwanted contravention of the legislation in force.
In the following article, we would like to give you an overview of the basic terminology and legal regulation in the area of country of origin or place of provenance labelling and the current topic of consumer deception in relation to these labels.
Place of origin of the food
At the outset, it is appropriate to clarify the terminology in this area, namely the two basic concepts of “country of origin” and “place of provenance”.
The “country of origin” of a food is generally considered to be the country where the food was produced. If it was produced in more than one country, the country of origin of the food is the country where the last substantial processing took place.
“Place of provenance” means the place from which the food is stated to come and which is not a “country of origin” within the meaning of the above definition. Thus, in the context of the above, a place of origin may be, for example, a city, a region, a group of countries, etc.
The basic rules are laid down in Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 of the European Parliament and of the Council of 25 October 2011 on the provision of food information to consumers (hereinafter as “the Regulation“), according to which, in general, food information must not be misleading, including as regards the place of provenance.
As regards the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance, this is compulsory on food only where the omission of this indication is likely to mislead the consumer as to the true place of origin of the food, in particular where the information accompanying the food, i.e. the name or the label as a whole, would suggest that the food is from a different country of origin or place of provenance from that in which it was produced.
The situation of potential misleading the consumer as to the true place of origin of the food can be illustrated by the following example:
The packaged rice bears only the name of the Czech company and the information shows that this company packaged the rice – in the opinion of the State Inspectorate for Agriculture and Food, the consumer is not misled as to the origin of the rice, as it is a well-known fact that rice is not grown in the Czech Republic, and although the consumer does not know where the rice actually comes from, he is not misled.
However, if the packaging of the rice contained any text, pictures, graphics, etc. which gave the impression that the rice was grown in, for example, Italy, when in fact the country of primary production is India, then the consumer would have to be properly informed of the true place of origin of the food.
In principle, therefore, the country of origin and place of provenience are voluntary indications on food unless the absence of this information on the food would mislead the consumer. The only exceptions to this rule are a few categories of food where the indication of the country of origin is mandatory (e.g. meat, fresh fruit and vegetables, eggs, wine, virgin oils, honey and fishing areas for fish).
Special rules apply where a food is labelled with the country of origin or place of provenance of the food and it is not the same country or place of origin of its primary ingredient, which in practice is usually considered to be an ingredient that is more than 50 % or essential to the food.
In such a case, the food shall also indicate the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient or that the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient is different from that of the food.
However, if the country of origin or place of provenance is not indicated, the origin of the primary ingredient shall not be indicated either.
The Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic has received several indications of the occurrence of the above-mentioned misleading labelling of the true place of origin, particularly in the beer sector. However, the situation undoubtedly also applies to all other sectors of food production.
Although the Chamber of Food of the Czech Republic notes in this connection that in many of the cases found, this undesirable situation is due, for example, to a shift in production from its historical origins, or has other real justification, it should be borne in mind that the consumer must be informed without exception of the true tplace of origin at the present time.
Therefore, in order to meet the need for clear information to the consumer, the Czech Chamber of Food recommends that information on the true place of origin be given here, in the same field of vision as any reference to the historical and no longer current place of production.
As described above, the Ministry of Agriculture of the Czech Republic, the State Agricultural and Food Inspection and the Food Chamber of the Czech Republic consider the current undesirable state of affairs related to misleading food labelling to be truly urgent and have repeatedly warned of the need to comply with the requirements of all applicable legislation, including the special requirements for informing consumers about the true place of origin of food.
In order to avoid sanctions in the event of adverse findings and to avoid as far as possible misleading the consumer by food business operators, it is recommended that the legal regulation and recommendations of the competent authorities be duly taken into account and that the labelling of the true place of origin of food be brought into line with the relevant rules.
We are at your disposal in case of any queries regarding food labelling, as well as other substantive issues related to food law, so please do not hesitate to contact us.
Mgr. Tereza Dvořáková, attorney-at-law – firstname.lastname@example.org
Mgr. Jakub Málek, managing partner – email@example.com
22. 04. 2022