European agri-food: A typical example of quality

Rice carrying the EU's mark of quality is regularly used to make paella valenciana, a Spanish delicacy. [Shutterstock]

The European Union has put in place strict rules that govern food quality. The prestige this has created around the world has made the bloc competitive at the highest level. EURACTIV’s partner EFEAgro reports.

The European Union’s high standards of food quality and safety are a result of law-making that was first implemented in the early 1990s, which has produced a vast body of legislation that is recognised globally as one of the most stringent.

Wine was one of the first products to be furnished with its own laws in 1991, in order to ensure high-quality levels.

Setting up the Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) marks was a quantum leap forward in quality guarantee, bestowing a degree of prestige and protection on foodstuffs, identifying their uniqueness and high standards.

In Spain, laws have been put together that have improved the functioning of the food chain, including the creation of bodies like the food control agency (AICA).

Spanish Secretary-General for Agriculture Carlos Cabanas insisted that the goal is to “continue working to promote this differentiation”, which will allow Spanish and EU products to “compete under better conditions on international markets”.

Rice in production. [EFEAgro]

Spanish export data shows that farmers and industries “are offering quality products to the countries of the world”, an “effort” that encourages them to do more to respond to consumer demands.

Director of food, nutrition and health policy, at the Spanish Federation of Food and Drink Industries (FIAB), Enrico Frabetti, insists that Spanish industry has made a “very strong commitment to quality and is working every day in order to guarantee food safety and traceability”.

Lower quality of same food brands in Eastern Europe raises eyebrows

Big companies are selling better food in Austria than they sell in Hungary, even though the brands are supposed to be the same, the Hungarian government said yesterday (16 February).

Frabetti also extolled the virtues of the PDO and PGI marks but acknowledged that, despite increasing consumer awareness about the scheme, product price, appearance and expiration date all play a greater role in purchasing decisions.

FIAB is also investing in innovation in order to obtain healthier foods, as the Federation has decided that it is an appropriate avenue to up quality levels.

This includes setting up the “Food for Life Spain” technology platform, whose Secretary-General, Nuria María Rivas, explained that its goal is to carry out R&D projects, “led by the food industry and its needs”, and to come up with future EU research strategies.

Valencia’s rice farmers provide a good example of the quality link between producers and manufacturers, given that their products carry the EU mark and are bound by stronger rules, including those governing the type of seeds that can be used and regular checks.

Valencian farmer Vicente García knows this set-up well and is a firm believer in the product being labelled with the DO mark because he believes demand is only going to increase.

Traceability of rice quality is not just limited to the fields, it continues throughout the processing stage. Isidoro López, the head of rice company La Campana, is in favour of the “exhaustive” controls the EU mark demands, because of the inevitable positive side effects on “prestige and quality”.

La Campana produces some 2,000 tonnes of rice that is then labelled with the DO mark each year. Every growing season, this figure rises by 50,000 kilos. This demand is mostly driven by the catering industry and tourism.

La Campana boss Isidoro Lópz shows how it is done. [EFEAgro]

The national park of Albufera, near Valencia, has benefited from the prestigious rice crop. Tourists can enjoy it in a traditional paella dish before or after taking a boat trip in the lagoon that has made the area well-known.

Commercial director of the park Jesús Barrachina said it is “essential” to continue uniting the two strands of gastronomy and tourism because more than half of the area’s clientele are foreigners. Plans are in motion to build accommodation so that guests can stay in the park itself.

Diners at the Nou Racó restaurant tuck in. [EFEAgro]

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