News: Organic products, geographical indications and agricultural products

2016.02.01

Organic products, geographical indications and agricultural products

Öko-Verordnung | organic foods | agricultural products | EU-QuaDG | Kontrollstelle | Kontrollausschuss | eco-labelling | bio-labelling | geographical indications

Organic products, geographical indications and agricultural products

Transposition of EU regulations in Austria

Overview

Effective January 1st 2016 Austria transposed several regulations from

  • Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 (on organic production and labelling of organic products) and
  • Regulation (EC) No 110/2008 (on the definition, description, presentation, labelling and the protection of geographical indications of spirit drinks) and
  • Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012 (on quality schemes for agricultural products and foodstuffs)

as well as additional EU regulations into national law. For this purpose, Austria enacted what is called the “EU-Quality Regulations-Implementation Act” (Bundesgesetz zur Durchführung des Unionsrechts auf dem Gebiet der biologischen Produktion, geschützten Herkunftsangaben und traditionellen Spezialitäten, in short: EU-Qualitätsregelungen-Durchführungsgesetz, abbreviated as EU-QuaDG).

The act dates back to a draft legislation from early 2014 which (after some criticism) was eventually dropped and – without going through a new review process – was reintroduced for parliamentary approval in September 2015 in the now enacted version. The act inter alia stipulates the following regulations:

Under the act the provincial governors (Landeshauptmann) are the competent authorities for official controls as set out in Regulation (EC) 882/2004. The provincial governors are (inter alia) responsible (within their respective local jurisdiction) to oversee the work of accredited control units (Kontrollstellen). These accredited control units are responsible (Sect. 3 of the Act) for

  • verification that a product complies with the corresponding product specification in terms of Art. 36 Nr. 3 lit. a of EU-Regulation No 1151/2012;
  • verification of compliance with the specifications in the technical file under Art. 22 of EC-Regulation No 110/2008;
  • verification of compliance with the requirements under EC-Council Regulation No 834/2007.

In terms of nationwide coordination of official controls, the act establishes a “control commission” with the task to inter alia propose and approve guidelines and handbooks, propose control schedules, coordinate the work of the involved authorities and clarify questions of interpretation relating to controls.

Duties of operators in the industry

The act stipulates the following duties for operators in the foodstuff industry:

Operators are obliged to put their activity under the control of a control unit (i.e. notify the control unit) before they place products on the market. They are further obliged to tolerate all controls under the act and support the controlling authorities in fulfilling their duties (including the obligation to provide a competent person during controls to the inspector/inspection team). Operators are also obliged to enable (i.e. allow) the controlling authorities to review business documents and provide all other information relevant to the inspection (Sect. 8 Para 2 of the act).

Sanctions

Violations of the act and the respective EU/EC-regulations mentioned in the act are punishable (Sect. 18 of the act) with fines of up to Euro 50,000.00 (Euro 100,000.00 in case of repeated offences). The act stipulates that the attempt to commit an offence under the act is punishable. Furthermore, the act foresees a minimum fine of Euro 700.00 (for first offenders; Euro 4,000.00 in case of repeated offences) regarding violations of

  • Art. 23 to 26 of Council Regulation (EC) No 834/2007 (use of ‘eco’/’bio’ labelling; compulsory indications; use of organic production logos; specific labelling requirements)
  • Art. 12 para 1 and 3 (use of protected designations of origin and protected geographical indications, names and symbols), Art. 13 (use of protected names), Art. 23 para 1 and Art 24 para 1 (use of a name registered as a traditional speciality), Art. 44 para 1 lit a) and b) (use of indications and symbols relating to quality scheme indications) of Regulation (EU) No 1151/2012
  • Art. 16 (protected geographical indications) of Regulation (EC) No 110/2008

if the offender knows that his/her act is unlawful and the consequences of the violation are not insignificant. Based on case law in Austria according to which any professional operator is obliged to know the applicable laws and regulations of his trade and that almost all violations of a law are deemed to be significant, it is to be expected that the authorities will apply the minimum fine in the majority of cases.

The statute of limitations for violations of the act is extended to two years (Sect. 18 para 4 of the act) and the act foresees several reporting mechanisms to ensure that all relevant authorities are informed of the outcome of proceedings.

Link to the EU-Quality Regulations-Implementation Act (in German)

Tags: Öko-Verordnung, organic foods, agricultural products, EU-QuaDG, Kontrollstelle, Kontrollausschuss, eco-labelling, bio-labelling, geographical indications

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