Portugal to trial origin labelling for milk

© iStock/dennisvdw

Portugal will go ahead with compulsory origin labelling on milk, cheese and other dairy products, the country's minister for agriculture confirmed this week.

Speaking in Brussels on Monday Portugal’s minister for agriculture Capoulas Santos described the authorisation as “a measure that the sector sees as very important”.

What will be covered?
  • Milk and cream (both concentrated and unconcentrated; sweetened and unsweetened, flavoured and plain) 
  • Buttermilk, curdled milk and cream, yoghurt, kefir and other fermented or acidified milk and cream (both concentrated and unconcentrated; sweetened and unsweetened, flavoured and plain) 
  • Butter and other fats and dairy spreads derived from milk
  • Cheese and curd cheese.

“Consumers will unequivocally go to the supermarket shelf to be able to choose between milk produced in Portugal and milk produced in another source,” he added.

The measure is still due to be debated by Portugal's Council of Ministers but a spokesperson for the European Commission confirmed it would apply to milk, cream, cheese, butter, yoghurt and other milk-derived products.

This law will be effective until two years after its publication, depending on the life cycle assessment that is made on its application.

A spokesperson for the Portugal’s National Agricultural Confederation (CNA) told FoodNavigator: “[We] consider that this is a fair and positive measure for producers and also for consumers, who have the right to know the origin of the products they buy.”

“A conscious consumer with social concerns can thus choose to buy Portuguese milk. We agree that the more information we have for the consumers the better, as long as these rules do not hamper, for example, the distribution in the short distribution channels.

Portugal brought in a form of origin labelling for pork products in September last year with the introduction of a quality label for domestically produced pork.

The spokesperson for the CNA said it was not known if the government intended to extend origin labelling to other products.

France's labelling trial covers processed meat and dairy products.

A European trend

This week Italy announced its compulsory origin labelling for dairy products would come into force 90 days after publication – allowing producers and manufacturers time to comply with the labelling requirements – and would remain in place until 31 March 2019.

Greece, Finland, Lithuania have also sent requests for similar labelling while Italy has also requested origin labelling for wheat products.

Eucolait, the European Association of Dairy Trade, opposes compulsory origin labelling.

Its secretary general Jukka Likitalo said in an open letter addressed to commissioner for health and food safety Vytenis Andriukaitis denouncing mandatory origin labelling as "pure protectionism". 

European food lobby FoodDrinkEurope (FDE) and the European Dairy Association (EDA) have also voiced their opposition, arguing it will negatively impact producers located near border regions (who may source their milk from dairies in different countries), push up consumer prices and hinder trade in the single market.

Yet origin labelling has support on the European Parliament. Just over two months ago (5 December 2016) MEPs once again voted in favour of compulsory labelling for all types of milk intended for consumption, milk products and meat products in order to restore consumer confidence following the horse meat scandal and other cases of food fraud.

The resolution was adopted by 422 votes to 159, with 68 abstentions.

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