Ninety-six percent consumers would like to know the origin of the raw material of a food product, before buying it. For this reason, last year, our ministries of Agriculture and Economic Development have finally decided that starting from 2018, the most consumed basic food producers are obliged to write on the label if the raw material was produced in Italy , or imported from the European internal market, or from the non-EU market. Today, therefore, Italian consumers at the supermarket can read from where the milk arrives, where the wheat was made with which pasta was made, where the tomato of sauces grew. We are the only European country to have such a stringent transparency obligation, but it will not last long.
The producers oppose the decree
As soon as the decree was issued, the Italian association of pasta makers (Aidepi) - which Barilla, Divella, Felicetti and Garofalo are included among others - immediately appealed to the TAR of Lazio: "We want to encourage consumers to prefer pasta in based on the origin of the raw material used, but the origin of the wheat is not synonymous with quality ». In the end, the Court rejected the appeal by considering "... prevailing interest to protect consumer information". It is worth mentioning that our pasta industry is worth € 4.7 billion, that the Italian wheat production is 4.3 million tons and that we import another 1.74 million tons from all over the world. A non-trivial theme, if consumers put in their head that «Italian is better» for example because we have strict rules on the use of pesticides and herbicides. Also the «Food drink Europe», the agro-food lobby that brings together the Danone and Nestlé brands, along with the initials of Confindustria, had reclaimed to the European Commission: «Members consider with concern the tendencies to renationalise certain norms and policies in the sector ». In other words: "On the subject must decide the Commission and not a single country".
The new European regulation
While the Italian food industry, despite the "tummy ache", is adjusting itself with the updating of the labels, on May 28 in Brussels President Juncker signs the new European regulation that cancels the national decree. From 1 April 2020, it will be mandatory to indicate where the raw material comes from only when "the country of origin is indicated through, illustrations, symbols or terms referring to places or geographical areas". In practice it means that, in a couple of years, in Europe, the only ones bound to declare the origin of the main ingredient, will be the companies that put on the packaging the "traits" that evoke their origin. To give an example: when "100% Italian" is written on the pasta box, the producer will be obliged to declare if the bran is all Italian or a part is imported from Romania or Canada. If instead the packaging does not suggest a precise link with a territory, just write: "EU" or "not EU" or "EU and not EU" or even nothing. Basically, a regulation that puts in line those who want to pass off a product for Italian that Italian is not, or not completely, but leaves all the other large meshes. On the day of voting at the Berlaymont only Germany and Luxembourg abstained from voting, while Italy, which had always declared itself against it, then sided in favor of the new label.
What do consumers want?
Agri-food is Italian excellence in the world. Only the tomato processing industry is worth 3 billion and represents 47% of the Community market. The rice, with a production of 1.50 million tons, accounts for 50% of all EU production. The local milk supply chain is worth over 15 billion euros. The Italians, who consume 24 kg of pasta each year, 30 kg of sauces and 53 liters of milk, among the 28 member countries are the citizens most involved in this affair.
Even if a small slice of the market will choose spending by looking only at the price, the Ministry of Agriculture's surveys say that 96% of consumers think it is important to have a label where the origin of the basic food is written clearly and legibly. all food products. According to European Parliament research, 84% of European citizens consider it necessary to indicate the origin of milk, while 90% want transparent labeling for processed foods.