What are they?
European regulations 509/2006 and 510/2006 lay down three protection systems for agricultural products and foodstuffs, each with specific characteristics.
The Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) can 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, etc.). Furthermore, the product must have been produced, processed and put together in the specific geographical area.
Examples: “Ardenne butter,” “Herve cheese,” “Feta,” “Normandy Camembert.”
The Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) may be attributed to agricultural products or foodstuffs which are from a specific region and for which a specific quality, reputation, or other characteristics may be attributed to that region. Furthermore, the product must have been produced and/or processed and/or put together in the specific geographical area.
The conditions required for a protected geographical indication are more flexible than those required for a protected designation of origin. Thus, a PGI can be attributed even if only the product's reputation can be attributed to its geographical origin. Furthermore, the production, processing and assembly are not all required to have taken place in the specific geographical area; only one is required to have done so.
Examples: “mattons de Geraardbergen,” “paté gaumais,” “Brussels chicory,” “Ardenne ham.”
Recognition as a Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) is available for foodstuffs and agricultural products without a link to specific geographical area. This recognition is based on the specificity of the product, i.e. the characteristics which clearly distinguish it from other products or foodstuffs from the same category. These characteristics may be related to the product’s intrinsic qualities such as physical or chemical properties or the production method. Therefore, they must be produced according to a specific recipe or production method, but this may take place anywhere, without geographical requirements.
Examples: “Geuze,” “Faro,” “Kriek,” “Mozzarella”.
A designation of origin, geographical indication or traditional speciality guaranteed provides exclusive rights of use to producers of the concerned product. To receive this protection, you must register the designation. A specifications sheet in which you explain the conditions under which the protected designation may be used (geographic area, required production method, elements of proof regarding the quality of the product related to the geographical environment, etc.) must be filed.
The request may be filed by a national group of producers or processors of the concerned product (often agricultural organisations). These indications are not open to individual use; they are meant for the collective interest. All those who meet the objective conditions of the specifications sheet will receive the right to use the protected indication.
The registration procedure is carried out in two phases. First, the regions decide whether to accept a determined indication. In the second phase, the request is transmitted to the European Commission, which performs a supplementary review and makes a final decision on recognising the request designation. After the first phase, the Walloon Region recognises provisional protection.
Specific arrangements are provided for wines and spirits.
For more information:
- European Commission, Rural agriculture and development
- Walloon Region, Directorate-General Agriculture
- Flemish Ministry of Agriculture and Fishing
Other quality labels
There are many varieties of quality labels. Indeed, anyone may indicate the origin or quality of their products or services using certain signs, as long as they follow all regulations and do not violate the rights of third parties. For example, you must adhere to labeling and advertising regulations as well as trademarks and copyrights. Federal and regional government may also introduce new quality labels.
A famous example of quality labels is the ISO standard.
Note: collective trademarks may also be quality labels. Conditions of protection and a specific procedure are applicable in this case.