Farm Foundation Forums

Current Projects

Archived Projects


Bureau paper (03-65)

The European Food labeling Policy and Regulation:

How Good Is at Informing, Protecting and Persuading?


Jean-Christophe Bureau

(Institut National Agronomique Paris-Grignon)


Egizio Valceschini

(Institut National de la Recherche Agronomique)

Paper presented at the Conference of the FAMPS (the Food and Agricultural Marketing Policy Section of the American Agricultural Economics Association) "Emerging Roles of Food Labels: Inform, Protect, Persuade."

Washington, D.C. March 20-21, 2003.


•  Introduction

European and North American preferences . It is well-known that the perception of food quality differs significantly between both sides of the Atlantic ocean. ? Bredahl, for example, shows how tastes differ regarding what is perceived as "high quality" in a chicken (Bredahl 1998). ? Vogel describes how the same unpasteurized cheese can be seen as hazardous in the US and as gourmet food in France. ? More generally, Bureau and Marette (2000) stress that there are considerable differences between North American and Europe on what are the relevant quality attributes, among the nutritional content, taste, production methods and authenticity of products, and on the extent to which they may legitimately be the subject of regulation.

The somewhat peculiar perception of quality by European consumers has shaped the EU regulation, which, as a result, is sometimes at odds with other countries standards. ? For example, many Europeans consider that the soil, climate and traditional know-how that exist in a region have a decisive influence on product quality. ? The European legislation stresses the importance of the attribute "authenticity" which has inspired the 1992 EU regulation on food quality labeling. ? Definitions based on taste or traditional know-how receive little support in North America. More generally, at the international level, the quality attributes that are stressed focus more on the absence of germs and toxins, on compliance with technological process, or nutritional characteristics, and less on taste, integrity or geographical origin. ? This results in frictions in international trade. ? EU consumers fear they could be misled by foreign products that do not stress the same quality attributes as the ones they value most. ? On the other hand, non-EU countries fear that the EU regulation on quality acts as a barrier to trade.

Within the European union, there are also significant differences in the perception of quality. ? The concern for "authenticity" is particularly strong in France, Italy (and, outside the EU in Switzerland), but is less shared in Sweden and Finland. ? Frictions similar to the ones that now occur in the multilateral arena have occurred in the construction of the EU single market. ? Forty years of a common agricultural policy have nevertheless managed to conciliate these differences in consumers preferences with the rules that guarantee a single market. ? The EU approach combines mandatory standards when necessary (such as in the case of hazardous products), mutual recognition of national legislations, and a EU-wide policy on labeling.

In the next sections, we will provide a brief description of the EU regulations and national regulations on product quality. ? Then, we will analyze the positive effects of the EU legislation, i.e. its ability to "inform, protect and persuade". ? We will then describe what we see as limitations of this policy, and express some personal considerations on the future of the EU labeling policy.

•  The EU legislation •  The roots of the EU leg




Round Table
  © 2012 Farm Foundation. All Rights Reserved. | Privacy Policy
Site Design: Vitek Design | Programming/Maintenance: Quixazure