By Alessandro Pala and Elena Martini

Regulation (EU) No. 775/2018, laying down rules for the application of Article 26(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers, came into force on 1 April 2020. This provision states that where the country of origin or the place of provenance of a food is given and it does not coincide with that as its primary ingredient[1], the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient shall also be given or, alternatively, the country of origin or place of provenance of the primary ingredient shall be indicated as being different to that of the food.

The particular implementing rules of these information requirements are precisely laid down in Regulation no. 775/2018, which applies whenever the place of origin of a food (different from the origin of the primary ingredient) is given «by any means such as statements, pictorial presentation, symbols or terms, referring to places or geographical areas».

In this event, the country of origin or the place of provenance of the primary ingredient may be given by means of:

  1. reference to a specific geographical area, such as, «EU» or «non-EU», or reference to a Member State, a Third Country, a specific region or any other geographical area within them, provided that it is clearly understood by average, reasonably well informed consumers;
  2. insertion of a statement as follows: «(name of the primary ingredient) does not originate from (country of origin or place of provenance of the food)» or similar wording likely to have the same meaning for the consumer.

In any case, such information shall comply with the same dimensional requirements provided for in Article 13(2) of Regulation No. 1169/2011, i.e. using characters with a font size which has an x-height equal to or greater than 1.2 mm. Furthermore, such information shall appear in the same field of vision as the indication of the country of origin or the place of provenance and in addition, where it is given by words, by using a font size which has «an x-height of at least 75% of the x-height of the indication of the country of origin or place of provenance of the food»

However, pursuant to Article 1, the customary and generic names that literally indicate the origin of the product, but «whose common understanding is not an indication of country of origin or place of provenance», are excluded from the scope of the Regulation No. 775/2018: in this respect, customary and generic names might be “insalata russa”, “spaghetti alla Bolognese” or “pesto alla Genovese”.

Finally, the Regulation No. 775/2018 does not apply to geographical indication protected under the Regulations No. 1151/2012 and No. 1308/2013 on PDO and PGI, No. 110/2008 on spirits and No. 251/2014 on aromatised wine, or protected by international agreements, nor to registered trademarks where the latter constitute an indication of origin (Article 1.2). Therefore, in such cases, specific provisions regulate the link between the geographical origin and the characteristics of the food.

[1] The primary ingredient is defined by Article 2.2 (q) of Regulation No 1169/2011 as “an ingredient or ingredients of a food that represent more than 50 % of that food or which are usually associated with the name of the food by the consumer and for which in most cases a quantitative indication is required”.