Europe moves to protect mountain food products

By staff writer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European parliament, European union, Food

Agreement over what should define a mountain quality food product
will help ensure accurate labelling and better protect a niche
European food market.

Indeed, the signing of the European Charter for Mountain Quality Food Products in Strasbourg last week could go some way to achieving this aim.

"The Charter is quite a sophisticated document but at its heart, it is simply a list of five characteristics that define a mountain quality product,"​said Frank Gaskell, president of Euromontana.

These characteristics are as follows: raw materials must be derived from a mountain region; processing must be carried in a mountain region; production must take into account concerns relating to sustainable development; production must attempt to maintain the biodiversity and heritage of mountain regions and producers must be able to guarantee at all times the transparency of information to consumers.

But beyond this, the Charter has two main objectives; an economic development objective and a policy objective.

The first aims to provide better identification of quality mountain products in the market in order to avoid counterfeits and misrepresentation that would be detrimental to producers and consumers. This, says Gaskell, should contribute to the achievement of a fair price for all partners in the supply chain.

"The policy objective is equally important,"​ said Gaskell. "We want to use the Charter to recognise and promote the role of farmers and enterprises that produce benefits for society in the mountain areas of Europe and defend their interests."

The European Charter for Mountain Quality Food Products is an initiative of Euromontana, the European association for the development of mountain areas, based on its work in different projects. It was launched in cooperation with AEM, European Association of Elected Representatives from Mountain Areas.

Both recognise that agriculture and the food sector play a crucial role not only in the economic and social development of mountain areas, but also in the preservation and development of mountain culture.

Gaskell claims that the diverse but fragile European mountain areas have in their products a unique comparative advantage.

"We want to maintain a population in the mountains, we want living mountains in Europe, and that is I think in the spirit of this process,"​ said Jacques Barrot, commissioner for transport.

"Certainly to make the quality products known, but also to make the producers that bring the know-how, the experience, the tradition that gives these mountain products their quality. I think this initiative is excellent."

Among the signatories present at the European Parliament were the secretary of state of the ministry of local government and regional development of Norway, The secretary of state of the ministry of agriculture of Romania and a representative of the cabinet of the minister of agriculture from France.

Related topics: Food safety and labeling

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