Brussels delays French proposal to label honey jars with countries of origin

About 80% of the honey consumed in France is actually imported, mainly from China. But the diversity of origin countries is only rarely indicated on the packaging. [Nick Melistas/Shutterstock]

France has been requested to review its proposed measure to label jars of honey marketed in France with the countries from which the different kinds of honey originate. However, this could slow down the implementation of this labelling measure, eagerly awaited by beekeepers. EURACTIV France reports.

With  European regulations not requiring the origin of honey to be specified on labels, French supermarket shelves are full of “Made in France” jars, although their true origins are often very international.

About 80% of the honey consumed in France is imported, mainly from China. But the diversity of origin countries is only rarely indicated on the packaging.

Thus, according to a survey conducted by France’s Directorate-General for Competition, Consumer Affairs and Fraud Control (DGCCRF), as much as 43% of the jars of honey sold in France have imprecise labelling

This problem of tracking the honey’s origin is a real scourge for local products.

At a time when “Made in France” is being promoted, the government introduced a new regulation to trace the origin of honey better in order to put an end to this problem as soon as possible.

Labelling project

At the start of the summer of 2019, the French government announced its intention to strengthen the labelling of honey’s origin. The French government’s text provided for the label to feature all the countries of origin of a product made of several kinds of honey, in order of importance.

Today, the mandatory indications on the origin of honey are limited to “mix of honey originating in the EU”, or “mix of honey not originating in the EU” or “mix of honey originating and not originating in the EU”.

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But because reinforcing the labelling would affect the functioning of the EU internal market, the French measure had to be validated by the European Commission.

The French proposal proposes that “the labels of honey blends marketed in France need to include an exhaustive list of the countries of origin of the kinds of honey used, in descending order of weight”.

It also provides that “the countries from which more than 20% of the honey in the blend originates need to be highlighted”. However, Brussels has not yet approved the proposal.

But for the European Commission, “the identification of countries representing more than 20% of the quantity of honey [goes] too far compared to what is possible under current European regulations”.

But the Commission’s detailed opinion “is not a refusal”, insisted a source at the European Commission, adding that “there are simply some comments”.

France is not the only country that has requested the EU’s validation to reform honey labelling. Spain and Portugal have also made requests to this effect. To speed up the process, the French government intends to revisit its proposal to clarify the labelling of countries of origin to the Commission.

But France’s desire to propose a new European regulation on the subject could be hindered by the efforts of other countries, who favour the so-called “European honey”.

For instance, while Portugal and Spain support country-specific labelling, the European Beekeeping Association in Hungary has launched a marketing campaign for such a European label.

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Alarmed French beekeepers and farming groups warned Tuesday of a “catastrophic” honey harvest this year due to adverse weather.

[Edited by Zoran Radosavljevic]

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