Mandatory Origin Labelling: the cost burden for bulk commodities outweighs the benefits to consumers
Our sectors both deliver single-ingredient to consumers and supply food ingredients representing more than 50% of a food to second-processing industries. As food business operators, we follow measures to ensure the traceability and safety of our food products, pursuant to the procedure laid out in the General Food Law legislation.
A mandatory rule to indicate the place of harvesting or Country-Of-Origin Labelling (COOL) of our raw material(s) would severely affect our current production & marketing practices. We also believe that mandatory labelling would not bring any benefit either for the consumers or for the primary food processors and food industry at large.
- Mandatory origin labelling will significantly impact the current functioning of the supply chain, in particular with respect to the storage and blending of both agricultural raw materials and processed food;
- Our raw agricultural products are mostly blended, processed, purchased and sold on the basis of their inherent quality, not on the basis of origin;
- Processing bulk agricultural commodities is a continuous production process and our companies are operating 24 hours a day. Its interruption is hardly feasible – and if at all possible, would have a high economic cost;
- This takes away the flexibility to deviate the sourcing of raw materials, as this would notably imply the stopping and restarting of production to accommodate the changes of origin(s) on the labels;
- The need of constantly adapting the labels would jeopardize the security of sourcing;
- Mandatory origin labelling for our primary products would be of little informative value, as “country of origin” may cover different concepts in consumers’ mind – or prove to be misleading although true by suggesting that these products possess special characteristics when all similar product have such characteristics;
- When shopping for food, European consumers first consider taste and price as very important factors and origin only comes in the fifth place. Moreover, they rank staple foods as the less important products where country of origin should be labelled, according to the “BEUC consumer survey on origin labelling on food” made in January 2013.
Therefore, the options and modalities suggested by the DG SANCO study (i.e.,provision of place of last substantial economic transformation or place of harvest as “EU” or “non-EU”, or by country, or by other geographical locations) to provide country of origin information on PFP products are not compatible with the industrial model they operate under and which allows them to supply in large volumes, at low cost for reasonable consumer prices, and with a reduced environmental impact, the commodities that the market needs.