French mandatory origin labeling decree for milk annulled
The European Dairy Association (EDA) said the decision is in line with the recent ECJ C-485/18 ruling on the French mandatory origin labeling for milk and dairy, where the European Court of Justice (ECJ) confirmed the mandatory national origin labeling schemes contradict the essence of the European project.
The EDA said the advocate general at the ECJ made it clear in his opinion that such labeling initiatives give way ‘to nationalistic – even chauvinistic – instincts.’
The EDA added the decision by the French Conseil d'Etat represents support of the Single Market principle and gives a sign to both the European Commission and national legislators.
The industry body said it is confident the EU Commission, as guardian of the treaty, will now take up the fight for the single market principle and stop all nationalistic initiatives for mandatory origin labeling of milk and dairy.
The success of the European dairy sector is based on the European project and on its principles, especially the Single Market, the EDA said. France, for instance, exports 40% of its milk – and more than 65% of exported French dairy products are destined for the EU’s Single Market.
The decision of the French Conseil d'État (ECJ Court case C-485/18) overturned the French national mandatory labeling decree that was approved – against the opinion of the legal services of the EU Commission, DG GROW and DG COMP – by the EU Commission back in 2016 for a test period of two years and was still in place until last week.
The EDA said the French government claimed consumer perception of quality is part of product quality, and justified the contested provisions of the decrees by the importance that most consumers seemingly attach to the information on the origin or provenance of milk, assuming that there is a link between origin and product quality. However, the EDA said, it was later recognized that apart from this subjective approach, there is, objectively, no property of milk that could be linked to its national origin.
The French Conseil d’Etat based its decision on the argument made by Avocat General Gerard Hogan in his opinion of July 16, 2020: only if the origin of a foodstuff has a tangible impact on the product itself can national origin labeling can be considered.
“Any other conclusion would pave the way…to purely nationalistic – even chauvinistic – instincts,” Hogan said.
During the court procedure, the EDA said the EU Commission recognized it was an error to allow national origin labeling schemes. The representative of the EU Commission claimed during the court hearings said, “There is no difference between German and French milk; any difference of milk is only linked to the farming systems and conditions.”
EDA secretary general Alexander Anton said, “We did not expect any other outcome for this ruling. We do hope this ruling marks the definitive end of a political ‘laissez-faire’ attitude of the European Commission, the ‘guardian of the treaties, vis-à-vis nationalistic measures taken by Member States. This is a very direct call for immediate action upon the concerned Member States and to the EU Commission that - in the past - missed many opportunities to take seriously its role as guardian of the treaty. We urge the EU Commission services to take immediately all necessary steps to end these violations of the basic principles of our Single Market, at all levels.”