What is it about?
European Regulation 1151/2012 foresees three protection systems for agricultural products and foodstuffs - each of which has its own specific characteristics.
Protected Designation of Origin
The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) may be granted to agricultural products or foodstuffs from a specific region whose quality or characteristics are essentially or exclusively due to the geographical environment, including natural and human factors (such as climate, soil conditions, local know-how). In addition, production, processing and preparation must take place in the defined geographical area.
Examples: "Beurre d'Ardenne", "Fromage de Herve", "Feta", "Camembert de Normandie".
Protected Geographical Indication
A Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) may be granted to agricultural products or foodstuffs which originate from a specified region and for which a specified quality, reputation or other characteristics can be attributed to that geographical origin. In addition, production, and/or processing and/or preparation must take place in the defined geographical area.
The conditions for benefiting from a protected geographical indication are more flexible than those for a protected designation of origin. A PGI can, for instance, be recognised when only the reputation of the product can be attributed as originating from a certain geographical region. Moreover, not all three elements of production, processing and preparation need to take place in the defined geographical area - just one of these aspect is enough.
Examples: "Tarte au maton de Grammont", "Chicons plein terre de Bruxelles", "Jambon d'Ardenne".
Traditional Speciality Guaranteed
Recognition as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) is open to foodstuffs and agricultural products with no link to a geographical area. This recognition is based on the specificity of the product, resulting either from its mode of production, processing or composition corresponding to a traditional method, or from the ingredients traditionally used. The speciality must, therefore, be produced, for example, according to a specific recipe or production method, but this can happen anywhere, without any geographical connotation.
The name must also either be traditionally used in reference to the specific speciality or identify the traditional character of the product or its specific features.
Examples: "Geuze", "Faro", or "Kriek".
A designation of origin, geographical indication or traditional speciality guaranteed grants an exclusive right of use to the producers of the product in question. To obtain this protection, the name must be registered. To this end, specifications must be submitted explaining the conditions under which the protected designation may be used (geographical area, the required production method, evidence of product quality in relation to the geographical environment, etc.).
The application must be submitted by a national group of producers or processors of the product in question (often agricultural organisations). These indications are not open to individual appropriation, but serve the collective interest. All parties who meet the objective conditions of the specification will, therefore, have the right to use the protected indication.
The registration procedure is carried out in two phases.
- First, the regions are competent to accept a particular indication, or not.
- In the second phase, the application is forwarded to the European Commission, which carries out a further examination and takes the final decision on the recognition of the requested name. The Walloon Region already grants provisional protection at the end of the first phase.
Specific arrangements are provided for wines and spirits.
For more information:
- European Commission, Food, Farming, Fisheries
- Flemish Ministry of Agriculture and Fisheries
- Walloon Region, Directorate-General for Agriculture
Other quality labels
In addition, there is a wide variety of other quality labels. Any person may indicate the origin or quality of their products or services using signs, provided that the regulations and the rights of third parties are respected. For example, it is not allowed to infringe the regulations on labeling and advertising, or trademark law and copyright. Federal and regional governments also have the possibility to introduce quality labels.
A famous example of a quality label is the ISO standard.
Please note that certification trademarks can also be used as a quality label. Specific conditions for protection and a specific procedure are applicable in such cases.