The new procedure of attesting traditional products – a quality guarantee?

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In recent years, the negative effects of fast food alimentation on the health and the well-being of people have led more and more persons to be concerned about the return to healthy diet as close as possible to a natural one, and also the return to the taste and quality of traditional food that most of us know from home1.

Of course, such a trend could not go unnoticed by food producers, especially considering that everything which is marked as ‘traditional product’ exceeds at least three times the price of a similar conventional product. Therefore, it came to the situation where, at any food trade fair or market, we find a multitude of products referred to as ‘traditional’ which have a price corresponding to the indications on the label, but of questionable quality.

The first who suffered as a result of this phenomenon were the consumers. Also, the real producers of traditional foods were affected by the unfair competition, given that, on the one hand, their earnings were much lower and, on the other hand, customers who had once bought fake traditional products no longer had confidence in this type of products.

In order to prevent the illegal use of the ‘traditional product’ designation and logo, at the end of last year it was passed a law that defines the notion of traditional products and regulates their attestation procedure. Thus, when someone decides to buy a product labeled as “traditional”, he/she has to know that he/she purchased food produced within the national territory, for which local raw materials were used and which does not have any food additives in its composition, which uses a traditional recipe, production and/or processing method and a traditional technological process which is distinguished from other similar products of the same category.

Of course, from the very definition mentioned above it follows that “traditional” does not mean, in any case, “green”, “bio” or “organic”, the latter being a special category of products, but certainly “the traditional product” should provide a superior quality guarantee of the ingredients and of the method of preparing compared to similar conventional products.

The procedure for attesting traditional products and for registering in the National Register of Traditional Products (“RNPT”), published annually on the website of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development requires, as a first step, that the producer shall prepare product specifications.

The specifications shall contain a number of elements, among which: the unique name of the product; the description of the characteristics of the traditional product by indicating the main organoleptic, physico-chemical and microbiological characteristics that shall define its traditional aspect; the description of the characteristics of raw materials and ingredients which shall not have in their composition any food additives, colorings, flavorings, vitamins, minerals, sweeteners; the description of the specific local, authentic and unvarying production method, as well as the description of the traditional technological process, which will include all phases of production, including operations performed manually.

A specific requirement imposed by the new regulation refers to the production capacity achieved – reported for a year, respectively 365 days – which may not exceed the average amount of 150 kg / liters per day total traditional certified product and no more than 400 kg / liters per day total traditional certified products, except producing traditional bread and bakery products, which can not exceed the average amount of 300 kg per day total traditional certified product and no more than 800 kg per day total traditional certified products.

The specifications, together with a number of other documents – including the analysis report of the product, the datasheet of the production equipments and the sketch of the location of the equipment used – are submitted to the Department of Agriculture corresponding to the county or capital city under which jurisdiction the traditional product is made, ​​in 3 copies.

In case the documentation submitted by the applicant is complete, the empowered representatives of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development will verify onsite the reality of the data included in the  documents and, to the extent that the information contained in the documentation are confirmed by the results of the factual verification, the product is enrolled in RNPT and it is issued the document “Certified traditional product”.

Also, as a result of the registration in RNPT, traditional products will be marked with a national logo which is the exclusive property of the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. The new regulation does not specify what is the sanction for using without the right this logo, but only makes reference to the punishment “under the law in force”, but it must be said that, to the extent that the logo was registered as a trademark, then the counterfeiting of the trademark constitutes an offense punishable under Law 84/1998 on trademarks and geographical indications.

Also, another lack of the new provisions is that they do not stipulate a period of registration of the traditional products in RNPT, on the date of expiry of this period the competent authorities should proceed to re-check the products and to reconfirm their compliance with the conditions of certification, which may affect, over time, the quality of traditional products.

In any case, the current procedure of attesting traditional products is likely to provide a better quality of such products and, of course, a higher degree of trust from the consumers who, in the presence of a product marked with the logo “Traditional Product”, will know that this is obtained from raw materials and quality ingredients and that it is based on a traditional recipe.

1.This is a translation of the article published on April 7th, 2014, in Business24.ro. For the Romanian original text, please visit this link:  http://www.business24.ro/companii/firme-romania/noua-procedura-de-atestare-a-produselor-traditionale-o-garantie-a-calitatii-1543670