The obligation to indicate the origin of tomato on the labels of preserves and sauces sold in Italy is now law. The Ministry of Agricultural Policies has in fact announced the publication of an interministerial decree signed by Ministers Maurizio Martina and Carlo Calenda. The measure introduces the testing of this kind of labeling for two years, in line with standards already in force in Italy for dairy products, rice, and pasta. The decree applies to products such as tomato preserves and tomato concentrate, as well as sauces containing at least 50% tomato derivatives.
On the way to transparency
We are moving forward on the path of quality and label transparency – says Minister Martina – especially in a strategic sector such as tomato products. The new labels will help to strengthen relationships between producers and processing industries. In this way, we protect not only our products but also the work of our companies and consumers. Citizens have the right to know the origin of the raw materials of foods that end up on their tables. In fact, more than 82% of Italians consider it important to know the origin of raw materials when it comes to food safety standards, particularly for tomato derivatives. These are the data emerging from an online public consultation about the transparency of information on the labels of agri-food products. The survey was carried out in the last months on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture, and attended by more than 26,000 citizens.
The new law
The decree provides that packs of tomato products and sauces produced in Italy must bear the following indications on the label:
a) Country where the tomato is grown: name of the country where the tomato is grown;
b) Country in which the tomato is processed: name of the country in which the tomato has been processed.
If these activities take place in more than one country, the following indications may be used depending on the country of origin: ‘EU countries’, ‘non-EU countries’, ‘EU and non-EU countries’. If all operations take place in Italy, the following words may be used: ‘Origin of the tomato: Italy’. The origin marking shall be placed on the label in a prominent place and in such a way as to be easily recognizable, clearly readable, and indelible. The law provides for a period of time for the adaptation of companies to the new labeling system, and the complete disposal of ‘old’ labels and packaging already produced.
The decree will lapse in the event of full implementation of EU Regulation n. 1169/2011, that provides for cases in which the country or place of origin of the primary ingredient used in the preparation of food must be indicated, making its application subject to the adoption of implementing acts not yet issued by the European Commission.