‘Artisan’ food labels need protection

Food terms such as “farmhouse” and “artisan” need formal legal labels to protect a €4.1bn industry with a potential for up to 7,500 jobs, warns the Taste Council of Ireland.

An absence of such labels is putting livelihoods at risk, Taste chairman Evan Doyle said at the Food Summer School in Wicklow yesterday. Some 120 food producers, including Darina Allen of Ballymaloe House; John McKenna of the Bridgestone Food Guides; and Michael Kelly of GIY Ireland, attended.

“Consumers rely on food labels to inform their purchase decisions,” said Mr Doyle. “The terms used on a food label often describe a unique process or origin which the consumer values — such as farmhouse, artisan, local, and traditional.

“At present, these terms are unprotected and can be used by industrial producers, large and small, thus misleading the consumer and endangering the livelihood of our genuine artisan producers.”

The Irish artisan and speciality food sector currently employs almost 5,000 people (full-and part-time) in 400 firms, with a combined output of €400m, a 2% value share of the Irish grocery retail and foodservice market, valued at €20bn in 2011.

The Taste Council believes the industry could grow to provide 7,500 new jobs and an additional €4.1bn to the local economy over the next eight years. However, the council argues these jobs are at risk because non-artisan producers are not restricted from printing such terms as farmhouse on their products.

Raymond O’Rourke, specialist food regulatory and consumer affairs lawyer and author of European Food Law, said the sector has a lot to gain from highlighting the provenance and high quality of their products.

“The enforcement authorities tend to concentrate on the food safety and nutrition aspects of food labelling yet the rules also demand that consumers are not misled as to the characteristics, ingredients, origin, provenance and method of production,” said Mr O’Rourke.

“We must not allow fraudulent claims on food labels to undermine Irish artisan products..”


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