French pigs and Greek honey gain new quality labels

The black Bigorre pig has gained its own EU label. [Wikimedia commons]

The European Commission approved last week three applications for geographical indication labels for products from France and Greece, continuing its drive to ensure quality and origin of food produced in the EU.

The Commission agreed on 15 September to add three new products to the protected designation of origin (PDO) scheme.  This label is part of the EU’s quality scheme for agricultural products. A PDO product must be traditionally and entirely manufactured (sourced, processed and produced) within a specific region.

This label prevents any producers outside the geographical area to market products with the same name.

France gained two more labels, bringing it to 244, second only to Italy. Protection was awarded to the “black Bigorre ham”, a type of ham made from black Gascon pigs, cured in the Pyrenees and dried by the Atlantic breeze. Meat from the black Gascon pig itself also gained a label, certifying its link with the region dating back to the XI century, when Benedictine monks started breeding them for their adaptability to the harsh natural environment.

The black Bigorre pig itself also gained a label, certifying its link with the region dating back to the XI century, when Benedictine monks started breeding them for their adaptability to the harsh natural environment.

Greece, another quality label heavyweight (currently 105), has gained protected status for its “Pefkothymaromelo Kritis”, a particular blend of thyme and pine honey produced In Crete, which boasts the highest density of bees in the world.

Who is driving quality in EU agri-food?

The EU’s Southern member states are the leading producers of foods certified by EU quality schemes: between them, Italy, France, Spain, Portugal and Greece account for 70% of the total.

Some criticisms directed at PGO schemes points at the artificial geographical concentration of capital: products are often linked to a very small area, labels benefit a limited number of producers and end up creating barriers for new food businesses.

The protected name cannot be used within the EU borders but it is not the case for the rest of the world. The EU has put in place bilateral agreements on the recognition of EU products in some foreign markets, but trade partners are often not respectful of the European trademarks.

EU member states to take China to court over fake geographical indications

Eight member states of the European Union will take legal action against China over 25 counterfeit trademarks on the Chinese market that mislead consumers on the origin of products protected by the EU’s geographical indications.

European producers seeking protection for their wine, cheese and oils often complain of food fraud.  According to the European Union Intellectual Property Office (EUIPO), 9% of all GI products on the EU market were counterfeited in 2014.

Quality schemes help EU producers break new markets

The promotion of geographical indications (GI) has helped EU products attract new emerging markets which seek quality food. However, Europol warns that fake GI products are on the rise across the EU and policymakers should not disregard the protection of intellectual rights.