Protecting Local Foods: The EU Seals

In a globalized world where parmesan took on meaning any sort of hard cheese, and balsamic vinegar became a generic term for a vinegar dark in color, the EU realized that some sort of protection for their typical food products was needed. This is a way to protect customers against misleading labels and shelter producers from unfair competition.

There are three main denomination whose goal is to guarantee the originality of specific products: Denominazione d’Origine Protetta (DOP), Indicazione Geografica Protetta (IGP), and Specialita’ Tradizionale Garantita (STG). A European law (CEE 2081/92) rules these seals by describing what products can claim the coveted marks of approval. Each product has to abide to a number of production regulations and geographical restrictions to be genuine and seal-worthy!

DOp SealDenominazione di Orgine Protetta- Denomination of Protected Origin- DOP

The DOP seal identifies a product whose entire production (from raw material to finished product) is geographically limited  to a specific area. Products coming from outside the origin area should not carry the same name. Examples of DOP products are Aceto Balsamico Tradizionale (area around Modena), Parmigiano Reggiano (around Parma), Castelmagno cheese (around Cuneo, in Piedmont) and Formaggio di Fossa (in Romagna). Even Mozzarella di Bufala Campana carries the DOP seal- if it is made with milk from water buffalos local to the area around Naples and produced completely within the boundaries of the region!

Indicazione Geografica garantitaIndicazione Geografica Protetta- Protected Geographic Indication- IGP

Somewhat laxer than the DOP seal, IGP requires at least one stage of production to happen in a specific area. IGP products can be tied to their area of origins by an ingredient, a specific characteristic or by reputation. For example, Mortadella di Bologna is a IGP product tied to its territory by reputation (hence the name Bologna used in America for processed pork meat!), while still requiring production to take place in the greater Bologna area to carry the seal. Another example is Lardo di Colonnata, traditionally produced in the little town of Colonnata near the marble caves in Tuscany. This product takes the IGP seal due to a characteristic of the production process- marble found in the area is used to press and preserve the pork lard.

STG SealSpecialita’ Tradizionale Garantita- Guaranteed Traditional Specialty- STG

This is the most recent of the guarantee seals, implemented in 2006, and the only one not directly tied to a specific area. Its goal is to preserve and promote food products whose production follows traditional methods or recipes. Fewer products are certified STG so far, and among Italian the only one that carries the STG seal is Mozzarella, while Pizza Napoletana is under evaluation!

A full list of Italian DOP and IGP products can be found here.

5 Responses to “Protecting Local Foods: The EU Seals”

  1. Great article!

    A must-read for all interested in the food authenticity! 5 stars and stumbled!

    Gabi @

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