Tuesday, 15 June 2021

Questions (1179)

Catherine Connolly

Question:

1179. Deputy Catherine Connolly asked the Minister for Agriculture, Food and the Marine if his attention has been drawn to the fact an association (details supplied) has taken a complaint to the EU against his Department alleging non-enforcement of regulation (EU) 2019/787 with regard to a lack of enforcement of spirits provenance regulations resulting in multiple incidences of false provenance information being provided on products that fall under a protected geographical indication designation; his views on the matter; and if he will make a statement on the matter. [30739/21]

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Written answers (Question to Agriculture)

The Department of Agriculture, Food and the Marine is aware of the allegations referred to.

The Department is the competent authority responsible for policy on Geographical Indications (GIs) at National and EU level including Irish Whiskey and works to ensure that GIs are protected as required by the terms of the new Spirit Drinks Regulation (EU) 2019/787. The Department and the Office of the Revenue Commissioners share responsibility for verifying compliance with the legal requirements related to GI spirit drinks, including labelling.

The Spirit Drinks Regulation requires that a GI spirit drink must be verified as compliant with the product specific Technical File, before it is placed on the market. These verification checks apply to any person or business who (a) is involved in any of the five Irish whiskey production processes (i.e. fermentation, distillation, maturation, blending, bottling and labelling/labelling only), or (b) who receives Irish whiskey in bulk or who markets or intends to market their product as Irish whiskey.

Eligibility to use the registered Geographical Indication for the spirit drink 'Irish Whiskey' is governed by Regulation (EU) No. 2019/787 and the Irish Whiskey Technical File (IWTF). The IWTF requires that the stages of production 'Brewing', 'Fermentation', 'Distillation' and 'Maturation' take place on the island of Ireland, while ‘Blending’, ‘Bottling and Labelling’ may take place off the island. Such is the complexity of the Irish Whiskey supply chain, that some producers choose to carry out all production stages, while others opt to specialise in specific stages. Additionally, many Irish Whiskies are brought to the market by Brand Owners, who are not involved in any of the stages of production.

Since January of this year, the Department has assumed responsibility from the Health Service Executive (HSE) for the assessment and approval of labels for Irish Whiskey and Irish Poitín. When assessing Irish whiskey labels, the Department assesses 'provenance' under Article 7(1) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011, which states "1. Food information shall not be misleading, particularly: (a) as to the characteristics of the food and, in particular, as to its nature, identity, properties, composition, quantity, durability, country of origin or place of provenance, method of manufacture or production".

Where uncertainty arises regarding who or where the product is produced, the Department seeks clarifications from the FBO. Furthermore, where FBOs are not directly involved in any of the stages of production, the Department does not approve the label unless it states that the product has been 'produced for them', as opposed to 'produced by them'. Additionally, the Department does not permit references to Distilleries that do not exist.