More and more Poles pay attention to the quality and place of origin of the food they buy. How to navigate the maze of symbols on packaging? What quality certificates and markings should you look for on labels? We answer: it is worth choosing products manufactured under quality systems, with markings recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
Another edition of the #BuyConsciously campaign is underway, supporting Polish agriculture and the national economy. As part of it, a videoconference devoted to identifying certified food was held in mid-May. The organizers of the event were: the National Support Center for Agriculture, the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, the Institute of Agricultural Economy and the “Świat Rolnika” portal.
‒ We are looking for ways to strengthen Polish agriculture and to make Polish products more and more recognizable among consumers, both domestic and foreign. We have good food that meets very high quality requirements. The #KupujConsciously campaign is an important and natural attempt to convince consumers that it is worth using this food, said Jan Krzysztof Ardanowski, Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development, in the introduction to the discussion.
But what should Polish food be and what should define it? According to Andrzej Romaniuk, Chief Inspector of Commercial Quality of Agricultural and Food Products, the quality of Polish food is good and we have a great demand for organic products, the production of which increases every year. However, because there are many food labeling systems, the average consumer must carefully look at the goods on the shelf and check what each label means and what is hidden behind it.
‒ We must bear in mind that our producers compete with producers on European and world markets. And basing competition only on price condemns us to failure. If we do not show that our products have specific features and stand out, we have no chance with large producers. Therefore, let’s think long-term, focusing on quality – explained Michał Rzytki, director of the Department of Food Quality and Plant Production Safety at the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development. Marcin Wroński, deputy director general of the National Center for Agriculture Support, had a similar opinion. “We don’t have the conditions to produce a lot and cheaply,” he said. – However, we have a good brand abroad, and the export of our agri-food products in 2019 amounted to as much as EUR 31.4 billion. For us, the main determinants should be quality and safety. And Polish food is safe, which is supervised by specialized institutions.
The debate participants agreed that it is necessary to raise consumer awareness of certified food so that they can properly read the markings and make the right choices based on them.
‒ Consumer awareness is very important in the current situation, because retail chains and producers use more and more sophisticated marketing methods, which is visible in how much food we throw away. It’s not that we don’t know how much we can eat, it’s just that the marketing tools are so perfect that we buy more than we can eat. Here, it is very important that the customer is aware, added Wroński from KOWR.
However, according to Jerzy Wierzbicki from the Copa Cogeca Promotion Working Group, today, when our food is relatively cheap for consumers, the time has come when we can and should conquer the market on price, earn a good reputation and brand, and then gradually, through increased demand, be able to raising the price.
The good news is that, according to research, for about 70 percent For Poles, a sufficient incentive to buy a product is that it comes from Poland. This is because we want to buy good quality products, and Polish producers provide just such products. They are increasingly often certified under quality systems, because such food is produced on the basis of high-quality native raw materials, in a traditional, original way, passed down from generation to generation, and at the same time using modern technologies.
Below we advise you what certificates and food markings to look for.
Certified regional products
The main objective of food quality systems in the EU is to promote diversified agricultural production, protect product names against abuse and imitation, and help consumers understand the specific nature of registered products. The basic signs used to identify agricultural products and foodstuffs are: Protected Designation of Origin and Protected Geographical Indication – emphasizing the relationship between the quality and place of origin of products, and Traditional Specialty Guaranteed – distinguishing their traditional production method. The symbol of one of the three certificates placed on the product label guarantees the exceptional quality of the product, resulting from specific regional conditions, history or unique manufacturing tradition.
A Protected Designation of Origin means the name of a product originating in a specific region, place or country. The quality or characteristics of this product are the result of the geographical environment, which includes both natural and human factors. The Protected Designation of Origin refers to the geographical area where all stages of production of a given product take place.
A Protected Geographical Indication means the name of a product originating in a specific region, place or country, the quality, reputation or other characteristics of which are the result of its geographical origin. A Protected Geographical Indication refers to a geographical area where at least one of the stages of production of a given product takes place.
Guaranteed Traditional Specialty means a product that has a specific character that distinguishes it from similar products belonging to the same category and a documented tradition and history of its production of at least 30 years. The product name should be original in itself or refer to the product’s original features.
43 Polish products are currently entered in the register of Protected Designations of Origin, Protected Geographical Indications and Traditional Specialties Guaranteed, and more are waiting for registration.
Certified organic products
The quality mark and certificate number on the labels confirms that the product is free from pollution, chemicals and GMOs and was produced with care for the natural environment, with particular emphasis on combining environmentally friendly management practices, supporting a high degree of biodiversity, using natural processes and ensuring proper animal welfare. Organic food producers meet very strict production standards and their work is constantly monitored, thanks to which their products are of the highest quality on the market.
What is the difference between certificates and markings?
Food certified under national systems guarantees quality thanks to the use of specific, rigorous methodologies and production rules, with particular emphasis on the quality and origin of the raw material from which it is produced. Producers’ participation in these systems also translates into supervising subsequent stages of the production process and ensuring always the same quality. Products with markings are not manufactured under quality systems, but have characteristic features that make them unique and unique. These include values such as the origin of raw materials used in production and traditional production methods. Below are examples of such markings:
“Discover Good Food”
Program of the Minister of Agriculture and Rural Development “Discover Good Food” has been operating since May 1, 2004. Its most important goal is to promote high-quality food confirmed by the PDŻ mark. It is also intended to help consumers make informed choices about food products and increase their confidence in mass-produced, high-quality and stable products.
The PRODUKT POLSKI trademark means that the goods were manufactured in Poland, using Polish raw materials. Together with the POLISH PRODUCT marking, other markings and certificates mentioned above may be included, which additionally prove the quality and safety of a given product.
The National Agricultural Support Center coordinates activities related to the promotion of Polish products. On the website www.polskasmakute.pl – created with producers and consumers in mind – you can find detailed information about certificates and markings recognized by the Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development.
The video conference “POLSKI PRODUCT – how to identify certified food” can be viewed at www.gov.pl/produktpolski.