Europe Rewards Quality with Traceability Labels

In the early 1990s, the European Union (EU) set about designing a tight labeling framework that would protect food producers from imitation on the market, help consumers understand the qualities of local products and engender a diverse agricultural production. By extension, the labels would also help producers command higher prices because they would indicate a quality food product.

As a result, in 1999 the EU launched the following traceability schemes: the PDO (Protected Designation of Origin), PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) and Traditional Speciality Guaranteed. In 2006, new rules updated and improved the systems, and today logos pertaining to these different schemes can be seen on olive oil bottles hailing from Italy, France, Greece, Portugal and Spain.

“Purchasing an EU quality labeled product guarantees not only its quality but its authenticity – buyers can be sure that they are not buying an imitation product,” claims an official EU publication.

World olive oil production is currently around 2.7 million tonnes, with European producers from the Mediterranean basin – Greece, Spain, Portugal, Italy and France – supplying the bulk of this figure. Indeed, European consumers, particularly in Italy, Spain and Greece, swallow the lion’s share of production, about 1.8 million tonnes. PDOs, PGIs and TSGs can help local olive oil producers competing in the market to differentiate their products in terms of quality and terrain and to help them stand out on the shelves.

Inspired by existing national systems, for example the French AOC (Appellation d’Origine Contrôlée) and the Italian DOC (Denominazione d’Origine Controllata) schemes, the EU traceability framework spans a plethora of foods from Cornish sardines to Finnish rabbits, and salami to mozzarella cheese.

Council Regulation (EC) No 510/2006 of 20 March 2006 essentially protects the names of products whose specific character is determined by their geographical origin. These rules are clearly evident through the protected designations of origin or ‘PDOs’, and protected geographical indications or ‘PGIs’).

According to the European Commission, there are now well over 800 geographical indications and designations of origin (not including those for wines and spirits) with these two types of geographical indications (GI) indicating different levels of connection with a geographical area and ensure the products ‘live up to the expectations of consumers’.

Firstly, because many such products possess qualities of taste and, secondly, because the local methods used to produce them create a ‘bond of trust’ between the consumer, the product, the place where it originates and the people living there who craft it.


Protected Designations of Origin (PDO)

The geographic link is deeper for PDOs than for PGIs, and products bearing the PDO logo have proven characteristics that are the result of the land and the abilities of producers in the region of production with which they are associated. As a result, PDO products require all stages of the food production process to be carried out in the area concerned. There must be, asserts the Commission, an objective and close link between the product’s features and its geographical origin, such as ‘Huile d’olive de Nyons’.
In other words, only olive oil from a recognized area in the vicinity of Nyons, France meeting exacting requirements can qualify to use these names and the logo.
Among the french olive oils to have achieved the PDO status are: Huile d’olive de Nice, Huile d’olive de Nimes, Huile d’olive d’Aix-en-Provence and Huile d’olive de Haute-Provence. In terms of Greece, Agios Mathaios Kerkyras, Archanes Iraklio Kritis and Lygourgio Asklipiou are among the many Greek olive oil producers with the logo. Italy and Spain olive oils also have a strong PDO presence, and to a lesser extent Portugal.


Protected Geographical Indications (PGI)

Products carrying the PGI logo have a specific characteristic or reputation associating them with a given area, and at least one stage in the production process must be carried out in that area, while the raw materials used in production may come from another region.


Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG)

For products linked to a specific method of production – rather than a territory as for PDOs and PGIs – the Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) logo is used. TSG applies to products with distinctive features which either have traditional ingredients or are made using traditional methods.

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