The Slovenia Times

Conference highlights needs of increasingly informed consumers


"Not only about where the product was made, but also where the raw materials are from, by which criteria it was made and what its quality is," Židan said at the outset of the conference in Maribor.

The meeting, which featured representatives from 16 countries, was organised by the Agriculture Ministry ahead of the 54th Agra agriculture and food fair.

According to Židan, the current state of affairs in the EU is not satisfactory, which is why he would like to follow the recent recommendation of the European Parliament that product labelling be upgraded.

His Slovak counterpart Jozef Kamenicky, the present chair of the EU Agriculture and Fisheries Council, echoed some of Židan's views, saying that consumers were now interested in things that had not concerned them a few years ago.

Kamenicky argued that today's debates showed most European countries held similar views, also because of the wish to protect local products. He added that now only the strategy on how to achieve this was needed.

Maltese Agriculture Minister Roderick Galdes spoke a fruitful discussion and explained that Malta, like Slovenia, was striving for a shared framework of rules and would work towards this as the next EU presiding country.

The plan was to adopt a joint statement in Maribor to forward it to other agriculture ministers in the EU, but three delegations had objections to what Židan said were some of the points of the text.

Like in the European Parliament, some member states argued that additional labelling would hurt local markets and consumers, but Židan noted that the majority felt the plan did not necessarily entail additional costs for consumers, as stores and the industry also needed to chip in.

Meanwhile, Andraž Zorko of pollster Valicon explained surveys showed that in the last decade consumers had become more careful, focused on health.

The flood of information can also confuse buyers, which is why they are starting to prepare in advance the criteria informing their choice, there is less impulsive buying and in the extreme cases no buying at all, with people trying to grow their own food, surveys moreover show.

The purpose of today's conference was to establish whether current EU legislation sufficiently accommodates to the changed habits and identify potential room for improvement.

Under EU rules, labels of numerous agricultural products must contain information on the origin of the products.

The European Parliament has also recently called on the EU commission to extend their list with all types of milk, and diary and meat products and look into the possibility of extending this practice to other products with one or one main ingredient. The traceability of food is also promoted by various EU product quality schemes.

Some member states have additional national regulations and product quality schemes to make sure that consumers are informed of the origin of the food products they are buying.


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