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Quality and labelling of agricultural products and foodstuffs

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Diet and health are inextricably linked. Safe and quality food helps to preserve and improve health and quality of life. Regulations covering all parts of the food chain “from farm to fork” ensure that food is safe and traceable. At the same time we encourage the production of food that is of good quality in all respects, in terms of nutritional value, taste and appearance.

The responsibility for having safe food on our plates is shared by everyone included in the food chain, from farmer to consumer. The main responsibility lies with all those who produce, process or sell food, while the government provides for adequate legislation and inspection services. However, although safety is a prerequisite for food quality, this is far from sufficient. The concept of quality covers the whole range of properties and characteristics of food. Namely, important features are the external quality or appearance (size, weight, shape, colour, taste, smell, freshness, absence of external defects), the internal or nutritional and physiological quality (content of carbohydrates, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals, proportion of ingredients and digestibility) and the useful value (suitability for trade and food industry, possibility of transport and storage, colour stability, durability of ingredients).

Quality can further be considered in a broader context, since the food people buy affects the environment, the global economic distribution of goods, the jobs and rural settlements and, last but not least, their emotions and well-being.

Consumers are becoming increasingly aware of this. They want to buy safe products, they are interested in traditional and original production processes and are giving growing importance to environmentally friendly production methods. Quality policy helps in adapting production to market needs. As this affects supply and demand, it benefits producers and processors as well as consumers. Traditional Slovenian food can be a matter of national pride.

Quality legislation

The quality requirements of agricultural products and foodstuffs are laid down by European and national legislation. The purpose of regulating quality, which implies, in particular, technical definitions, classifications, presentations, designations and labelling, is to facilitate the supply of standardised and satisfactory quality products to the market.

EU regulations apply to all Member States, while national ones only to the producers of that country. The basic rule is that the marketing of products allowed in one Member State is allowed in all the countries. The free movement of goods must not be disturbed.

Labelling

The legislation regulating labelling provides consumers with understandable and appropriate information on the content and composition of food products. The information on the label must be accurate, unambiguous and easily visible, and must not mislead the consumer.

General labelling is mandatory and uniform for all EU Member States. It includes information on the identity and composition, properties or other characteristics of the foodstuff, the information on the properties of ingredients likely to harm the health of certain groups of consumers, the information on durability, storage and safe use, the information on health impact and nutritional value. It applies to food business operators at all stages of the food chain when their activities involve the provision of food information to consumers. It applies to all foods intended for the final consumer, including food delivered by mass caterers and foodstuffs delivered to them.

However, voluntary labelling includes information on specific characteristics, production and processing methods and other characteristics of foodstuffs, which supplement mandatory labelling.