The increase in designations of origin and the indication of the origin of products on the label are booming. The supporters indicate that they are a show of transparency and truth, while at the same time helping local producers to differentiate themselves. However, according to one political scientist, he sees this as “an absurd concern” and that what this new trend really masks is a kind of gastronomic nationalism that goes against free trade.
The new laws that are being passed in European parliaments on food lead us back to bygone times. In recent years, Europe has a trend in the adoption of measures or tests aimed at helping the local food industry of olive oil, honey and many other products.
The denominations of origin of Spain arise from a concern of a sector of the population that seeks to differentiate the quality of its products and that the customer can easily recognize it. The denominations of origin include two types of denomination that we are going to see next.
Qualified Designation of Origin
The Qualified Denomination of Origin is another distinction like the Denomination of Origin but with more demanding quality requirements.
Protected Designation of Origin
The Protected Designation of Origin includes a set of food products protected under the specific regulations of the European Union, which must pass more demanding controls than the rest of the products in their category.
The fundamental requirements that have to pass are:
They must originate in a specific territory of the European Union.
Have differentiated characteristics due to their origin or the culture in which the products are developed
They must be produced and processed in that region.
Photo 1: Honey from Tajinaste with Tenerife Protected Designation of Origin
Let’s analyze the Denominations of Origin
Denominations of Origin have already been tested in Europe, as in products such as extra virgin olive oil and honey.
Other countries such as France are taking this further. The European Parliament gave the green light to France in its law that obliges to indicate on the label the origin of the product in processed meat and dairy products, giving rise to Italy, Greece, Finland, Lithuania and Portugal to pass other similar laws.
Romania has proposed a new local law, which obliges supermarkets to offer a minimum quantity of food on their shelves of Romanian origin. At the same time, the Polish government is in the process of introducing the “Made in Poland” label for foods containing a maximum of 25% imported ingredients.
In the meantime Italy has sent a decree to Brussels which would oblige to indicate on its label the origin of wheat used in the manufacture of pasta products. As for this announcement, the president of Coldiretti, the group that represents the interests of Italian farmers, Roberto Moncalvo, said: “the compulsory labelling that indicates the origin of wheat used in pasta responds to the request of 8 out of 10 Italians who consider it necessary to uncover the deception that exists on foreign products sold as Italian. It also states that one in three spaghetti and other forms of pasta contain products of unknown foreign origin.
But are these measures aimed at transparency or do they hide other hidden interests?
Using the word “deception” could be a strong enough word to describe this fact, although there is no doubt that consumers feel deceived by the scandal that was discovered not long ago. The horse meat scandal, which sold veal and was actually horse meat. Horse meat is sold today and is as healthy as veal, but it is a scam for the pocket, to buy a lower category meat.
This, along with others that happen on a day-to-day basis, further erodes consumer confidence in food supply chains.
For many, the indication on the labelling of the origin of the food is an important fact and the majority of European consumers are in favour.
According to a 2013 Eurobarometer survey, 90% of respondents said that the indication on the labelling of the origin of meat used in processed food dishes was important, while 84% were in favour of obliging the indication of the origin of dairy products such as milk.
Camille Perrin, a senior food policy officer with the European Consumers’ Organisation (BEUC), said: “This is a question of transparency for consumers, so that they make their purchasing decisions with more information. European consumers want to have information about the origin and the way food is prepared. We in our organisation want to help this trend and not hinder it.
But why do manufacturing companies hide this information? Well, they will have their reasons.
Part of society is increasingly aware of the food they eat, and origin is part of the attributes of food quality. Others have ethical or environmental considerations, or they may want to help their local economy.
But could this be a barrier to free trade? Or is it a new gastronomic nationalism?
Some European scientists see the indication of the origin of the product as new barriers that threaten to break the common market.
According to political scientists and Herman Lelieveldt, professor at Roosevelt University in Denmark, the obligation to indicate the origin of the product is a mild form of gastronomic nationalism, which is a deepening of the general nationalism that is sweeping the entire planet.
According to Lelieveldt, the indication of the origin of the product is not related to the quality of the product and distracts consumers from making a “correct” decision. By “right” he means making the right choice in terms of product sustainability from the point of view of the welfare of the producer, fair trade, animal welfare and environmental sustainability. However, indicating origin has nothing to do with these concepts.
But are the indication of origin and the designation of origin better for the environment?
Lelieveldt refers to the BBC article on “the myth of food miles”, which argues, for example, that comparing the production of lambs in the United Kingdom with their production in New Zealand has a great advantage over the former for a lower production of carbon dioxide by saving transport in the transfer of meat. However, the problem is not transport, as this is a very small part of the carbon footprint it leaves on the environment. So this view that consumers have is wrong.
Greater sustainability is achieved with less processed and more comprehensive food, and this reality has nothing to do with provenance.
Does the indication of origin and designations of origin help the local economy?
Proponents of the indication of origin or designations of origin defend the benefits of these measures because, according to them, they also restore consumer confidence.
According to Coldiretti, Italian consumers also want to pay between 5-15% more to ensure that the pasta is Italian and also the wheat used in its production.
So if consumers want to help farmers in their own country and are willing to pay more, should we not have this possibility?
The consumer believes that there is a link between the indication of provenance and the fair price the producer would receive. According to Lelieveldt, this belief is false, buying products such as extra virgin olive oil and honey with an indication of national origin or with a designation of origin has nothing to do with the producer receiving a fair price, although the consumer pays more for the product.
The reality is that commercials and supermarkets use abusive practices against the producer, and this practice is common throughout Europe and the world.
Is a product with a Denomination of Origin or an indication of its origin of better quality and is there greater food safety?
European food safety guidelines ensure uniformity in food quality and safety throughout the European Union. However, the indication of the origin of the product gives consumers a false sense of security, as this has nothing to do with the quality controls to which the final product has been subjected, according to Lelieveldt.
Our opinion of El Cortijuelo de San Benito
The indication of origin of a product is not related to the quality of the product, because it does not have to be of better nationality than another origin, on the contrary, other countries may have better weather conditions, facilities or more qualified labor to produce a higher quality product.
In addition, if we want our products to be sold in other countries as well, we also have to allow those from other countries to be sold in our territory. this does not mean that the consumer wants to pay more for a national product, because he is free to buy what he wants and this fact would not have any harm to the free market. Another very different thing is that the law obliges to sell a series of products by their origin, which breaks the single market.
As for the denominations of origin, these delimit territories where a product with different characteristics is achieved. In addition, they undergo stricter quality controls, providing the market with a product of different quality. This does not mean that a product without this distinction can also have the same or better quality.
The denominations of origin allow producers to join with a single review, and promote their products in a joint way, achieving lower costs per producer.
From El Cortijuelo de San Benito, we open this shop in order to know the producers and the product we sell, especially our extra virgin olive oil of the brand San Benito and El Cortijuelo de San Benito, where they buy it directly from the consumer and where they can see all the stages from the care of the olive trees, through the collection and processing until it reaches our shelves. Thus, we also do with the rest of the products, to ensure the origin and quality of honey, extra virgin olive oil and olives.