EDA sends open letter to EU Commission president on dairy issues

By Jim Cornall contact

- Last updated on GMT

In his letter, the chair of the EDA said "National origin labeling decrees have no legal or technological justification and we all know that they are powered by purely political motivations."
In his letter, the chair of the EDA said "National origin labeling decrees have no legal or technological justification and we all know that they are powered by purely political motivations."
Prior to an EU Council meeting, Michel Nalet, chair of the European Dairy Association (EDA), addressed a letter to EU Commission President Jean-Claude Juncker regarding recent barriers to the single market.

In the communication, Nalet points out the EU Single Market is essential for the European dairy industry, but argues that it is no longer functioning the way it should for milk and dairy, and for food in general.

In his letter, Nalet argues that the European dairy industry is the ‘economic backbone of rural Europe and beyond,’ with 12,000 processing sites across Europe and more than 300,000 direct jobs in the milk processing industry.

He also notes Europe is home to five of the top 10 global dairies.

Nalet says the greatest benefit for our dairy industry today comes from a well-functioning EU single market for our high-quality products, an ambitious EU trade agenda and the Common Agricultural Policy.

“Today, in a time where we should also celebrate the 25th anniversary of the completion of our EU Single Market, this Single Market is no longer functioning the way it should for milk and dairy and for food in general,”​ the letter says.

The EU Single Market provides all EU dairy processors with a strong home market of 500m citizens in which to operate.

However, he says, next to the Brexit decision, which he calls “the biggest overthrow of the European project,” there have been “huge failures in the Single Markets over the last two years.”

Origin labeling

The EU dairy sector has always been supportive of the European legislation on voluntary origin labeling.

However, Nalet says, “We deeply regret that our industry is now faced with numerous national mandatory origin labeling laws forcing especially dairies in so-called border regions to revise their milk collection strategy.

“We have one EU milk quality defined by the harmonized EU food law. National origin labeling decrees have therefore no legal or technological justification and we all know that they are powered by purely political motivations.

“As dairy industry, we have counted in vain on the EU Commission, the guardian of the treaty, to react firmly and oppose to these national proposals.”

The letter continues, “Unfortunately, our concerns have not been heard. What we can see now is a wave of national laws destroying the EU Single Market for milk and dairy, starting with France and Italy, and followed by Lithuania, Greece, Finland, Romania, Portugal and Spain.

We urge the EU Commission to use its powers to stop this spread of nationalism and defend the EU Single Market for milk and dairy.”

Nutrition labeling

Nalet notes nutrition labeling is another area where initiatives have been undertaken at national level, the most famous example being the traffic-light style labeling promoted by the UK.

“These many different traffic light style nutrition labeling schemes have a major negative impact on the free movement of milk and dairy products,” ​Nalet explained.

He states the EDA has been following the infringement procedure launched by the EU Commission against the UK labeling initiative, and is looking to the Commission to provide stakeholders with an update.

“As dairy industry we see no logic or consumer benefit in a nutrition labelling scheme where a diet soda drink ranks better than drinking milk,”​ he stated in the letter.

Intra-trade Certificates

The milk picture across Europe has evolved so much that companies have developed a presence across multiple countries and raw milk is sourced across borders, Nalet continues in his letter.

“This is valid for EU SMEs as well as of course, for larger companies. At the same time, the EU milk production has constantly increased in the last five years. As such, companies have invested in processing capacities in several EU members states and larger quantities of milk are placed on the international market. This implies transport of milk raw materials and finished dairy products across borders.”

However, he points out, the further export to EU or third countries is complicated by a lack of certified information (pre-certification) on the original products relating to the health of the animals or other certification requirements as veterinary health certificates are not issued for products traded between EU member states.

“It is important that the requirement for providing background information in-between EU Member States is not a request of the third country, but it is a request from the authorities in the EU country of export to fulfil the bilaterally agreed criteria in the final Health Certificate.

With this system, the dairy sector faces technical market barriers to trade within the EU internal market, he argues.

“We wish to have a pragmatic solution for both the trade of raw material and finished products. The solution requires a close cooperation between EU Commission services and the competent Member States’ authorities,”​ he concludes.

Related topics: Regulation & Safety, Dairy Health Check

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