Exclusive: Paola Testori Coggi director of DG Sanco explains why the Italian law on the label of origin is unlikely to be accepted

Exclusive: Paola Testori Coggi director of DG Sanco explains why the Italian law on the label of origin is unlikely to be accepted

Ilfattolimentare.it asked Paola Testori Coggi (general manager for health and consumers of DG Sanco, or the person responsible for the European Commission’s policy on health and food safety) for an opinion on the food issues discussed in Italy in recent weeks. Paola Testori Coggi makes it very clear that the new law on indication of origin approved unanimously by Parliament last week will not be approved in the community, as we have anticipated several times in our articles.

A few days ago Italy approved a new law that obliges producers to indicate the origin of raw materials on the label of food products. The rule was unanimously approved, but only a few isolated voices including ilfattoalimentare.it  expressed doubts about the possibility of applying the rule. What do you think?

The indication of the origin of ingredients on labels is an objective that falls under European law, so much so that these indications have been found for years on beef, fresh fruit and vegetables, fish and eggs. The last decision in this regard dates back to December 2010 when a project was approved at first reading which extends the obligation to indicate the origin to all fresh pork, horse, sheep meat…. The measure is expected to take effect within 1-2 years. But this is a first step because the decisions taken provide for the publication of a report on the feasibility of extending the obligation to long-life milk, dairy products and primary processing products such as pasta within three years.

So what is the fate of the new Italian law? The law anticipates the times of a path started years ago in Europe, it must be taken into consideration but it cannot be applied now, we must wait for common decisions. In the European Union the same laws on food and on labels are in force and for this reason it will be difficult to accept a law like the Italian one that imposes unshared rules. The next product categories that will have to report the origin on the label will be decided together by all the countries. If this were not the case, major problems would arise at the borders, where products would be rejected and the movement of goods would be limited

Are there any plans to ban or limit the sale of gadgets, puppets, and toys paired with baby food products as they are trying to do in California?

No, the European Union is not planning any of this. There are only very strict rules on the safety of children’s toys which also cover gadgets combined with children’s food products.

Italy is probably the only EU country not to have a food safety agency, having delegated certain functions to the ministries of health and agriculture. How is this anomalous choice seen by Brussels?

This is an internal matter. Each country autonomously determines how to organize its health network and checks on the territory and the Agency also falls within this area.

The recent story in Germany of dioxins in eggs and pork together with the issue of German blue mozzarella has raised some alarm. There were delays similar to those recorded by the Ministry of Health in Rome when the case of buffalo mozzarella with dioxin broke out. Doesn’t all this invalidate the effectiveness of the European Rasff rapid alert system a little?

The issue of German dioxin in feed has created quite a stir in the EU, but the media information was perhaps a little too alarming. I was in Germany a few days ago for this affair which created considerable economic damage to farmers. There were two consignments of dioxin-contaminated feed, the first dating back to March 2010, and was not reported to the German central authorities. The second game was discovered at the end of November and the alert was immediately triggered by the Rasff. The feed contamination did not last six months as it was written. Given that it is an unacceptable illegal fraud, it must be said that the alert worked immediately, managing to identify the contaminated consignments and the farms that used them through traceability.

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