Since the beginning of this month, the origin of the primary ingredient of a food must be clearly indicated on the product when it differs from the origin given for the product as a whole. This is the result of the implementation of Article 26 (3) of the European Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.
The details of this implementation are laid down in the Implementing Regulation 2018/775 that entered into force on April 1, 2020 (except for foods placed on the market or labelled prior to April 1, 2020, that may be marketed until the stocks are exhausted).
Such indication is compulsory (1) when the country of origin of the food is indicated on the product by any means (including symbols for instance) and (2) when the country of origin of the main ingredient differs from the country of origin of the food. Such obligation does not apply to the case of geographic terms included in customary and generic names where those terms literally indicate origin but whose common understanding is not an indication of country of origin (for example, Dijon mustard).
The main ingredient, officially called the “primary ingredient” in the EU Regulation, is defined as the ingredient representing “more than 50 % of that food or which is usually associated with the name of the food by the consumer and for which in most cases a quantitative indication is required” (Art. 2 of Regulation 1169/2011). The country of origin of the food means the country where the food is wholly obtained or produced or where the last substantial processing took place (Art. 23 of Regulation 2913/92). To recall the country of origin of the food must be given when there is a risk for the consumer to be misled on the true origin of the food (Art. 26(2) of Regulation 1169/2011, in force since December 2014).
The Implementing Regulation specifies how the origin of the primary ingredient must be indicated on the product. One can either mention the name of the country, the region or the geographical area where the main ingredient comes from or simply mention that such origin differs from the country of origin of the food product. In any case it must be easily visible and clearly legible and where appropriate indelible. Font size of the indication is also of great importance (see Art. 3 of Regulation 2018/775 for full details).
Regarding registered trade mark comprising an indication of geographical origin, specific rules concerning the application of Article 26(3) to such indications will be adopted soon. Meanwhile the Regulation 2018/775 does not apply to such case.
In Belgium, both the Ministry of Economy and the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain are competent to control the respect of the rules on food information. In case of violation of the above rules, a penalty of up to 5.000 € per infringement can be imposed and the products concerned can be seized.