Audit confirms quality of EU protected origin products

Castelmagno cheese got PDO status - DOP in Italian -  in 1996. It must be produced in the Cuneo Province, and can be labelled a mountain product. © iStock/ArtIndividual

Consumers are guaranteed a reasonable level of assurance regarding the quality of protected origin products, such as Parmesan cheese, according to a recent report by the European Commission.

The audits were performed in the UK, Belgium, the Czech Republic, Austria, Slovakia, Italy, Slovenia and the Netherlands between 2012 and 2014.

The report gives an overview of official audits undertaken in member states for the quality schemes Protected Designations of Origin (PDOs), Protected Geographical Indications (PGIs) and Traditional Specialities Guaranteed (TSGs) that cover agricultural products and foods.

Official controls, in conjunction with checks conducted by producers and manufacturers themselves, provide “a reasonable level of assurance concerning the integrity of [quality] registrations”.

While EU inspectors faced a number of challenges in verifying adherence to product specifications due to a lack of easily accessible on-pack information, the report identified several examples of best practice that overcome this.

Market inspectors in the Czech Republic, for example, used personal computers to access the DOOR database - which collates information on all applications and registrations - at supermarkets to check labelling requirements and registered names.

Meanwhile Italy and Slovenia require all producers of foods with a quality label to inform the relevant authority of the quantities they produce on an annual basis for traceability.

Food products have benefitted from EU protection since 1992. So far three products have been granted a quality label in 2017: two French cheeses, Raclette de Savoie and Brillat-Savarin, and a Spanish honey, Miel Villuercas-Ibores.

What's in a name?

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO): Covers agricultural products and foodstuffs which are produced, processed and prepared in a given geographical area using recognised know-how.

Kalamata olive oil PDO, for example, is entirely produced in the Kalamata region in Greece and must only use olive varieties from that area.

Protected Geographical Indication (PGI): Covers agricultural products and foodstuffs closely linked to the geographical area. At least one of the stages of production, processing or preparation takes place in the area. 

Westfälischer Knochenschinken is a PGI ham produced in the Westphalia region of Germany using age-old techniques, but the meat used does not have to originate exclusively from animals born and reared in that area.

Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG): Highlights traditional character of a product (either its composition or production) that has been handed down from generation to generation, without necessarily being linked to a specific geographical area. 

Gueuze TSG, for instance, is a traditional beer obtained by spontaneous fermentation that is generally produced in and around Brussels.

In recent years, there have been calls for a similar quality label for non-food products to be developed for items such as Bohemian glass, Scottish tartan and Basque berets. The Commission has identified more than 800 products that could be covered by this.

Source: European Commission

To download the audit report click here.

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