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PDO, PGI & Organic Agriculture labels: a really superior quality?


Labels are a means of informing consumers about the properties of a product. They are issued by certifying bodies that attest that the product has the specific characteristics guaranteed.

But what are the guarantees? 

Geographical origin and traditional know-how are the two commitments commonly targeted by these certifications.

Regarding delicatessen products, on a European scale, three labels are mainly used:

  • PDO: Protected Designation of Origin,

  • PGI: Protected Geographical Indication, 

  • Organic Agriculture (from the European regulation of organic agriculture EU 2018/848).


These three labels are a guarantee of quality in the European agricultural sector, and are widely used in Europe. 

Different objectives, but one common goal: to allow the consumer to identify the products he/she consumes.

European producers are moving towards "better eating".

The PDO label

It aims to preserve the appellations of origin of agricultural products, i.e. it certifies that the product has been processed and elaborated in a specific geographical area.


It underlines a very strong link between the product and its terroir. Transparency concerning this know-how is also guaranteed: a Protected Designation of Origin is the recognition of a product that derives its specificity from collective material and immaterial know-how, shared by all the operators, framed by a strict set of specifications. 


This is the case, for example, of Kintoa ham PDO.


What are the benefits for the consumer?

Thanks to this label, the consumer takes into account the authenticity and the typicity of the geographical origin of the product, which includes natural and human factors that are specific to a unique region.


In Europe, more than 904 food products carry the PDO label.

The PGI label

It also designates a product whose characteristics are linked to its geographical location. The requirement of this label is that the product must be either produced, elaborated or transformed in the place designated by the label. All the products having the same process of production, elaboration or transformation not carried out in the limits of the place cannot claim to join the PGI. This designated place is considered to be the only region entitled to create a product worthy of the label. 

The recipe can be stolen and produced in another region, but it is considered that it will not have the same outcome. 

It guarantees the notion of regional identity and know-how.

This is the case of Bayonne ham, which has the PGI label due to its origin, its history and its tradition linked to its region.


What are the benefits for the consumer?

The consumer buys a product of a given geographical origin which specifies and possesses qualities, a reputation or characteristics linked to this place of origin. 


In Europe, more than 670 food products carry the PGI label.

The label from organic agriculture (OA)

A product called "organic" is a natural product: among other things, it does not contain any synthetic fertilizers or pesticides (nor any other chemical products or GMO). Organic farming is therefore a method of agricultural production that aims to respect the natural balance.


The organic label brings together several guarantees, promoted by: 

  • The responsible use of energy and natural resources, 

  • The maintenance of biodiversity, 

  • The preservation of regional ecological balance, 

  • The improvement of soil fertility, 

  • The maintenance of water quality.


In addition, organic farming rules promote a high level of animal welfare and require farmers to meet the specific behavioral needs of animals.


What are the benefits for the consumer?

In addition to considerably reducing pollution and preserving the soil and groundwater, organic farming guarantees the consumer a product that is healthy and respectful of his or her body. 


To summarize, the Organic Agriculture label offers a fair market to producers, distributors, traders but also to final consumers.


In Europe, the use of labels is extremely closely monitored, as they are a real proof of quality for the final consumers. 


In addition to the quality controls specific to the different sectors (pork, etc.) set up at the national level or internally (protocols specific to each company), the operators involved in a label must respect three levels of control in order to guarantee quality to the consumer:

  • Self-controls, which guarantee the traceability of the product during the manufacturing process,

  • Internal controls, as part of a continuous improvement process, 

  • And external controls: by certifying bodies accredited by the public authorities.


Food traceability is one of the pillars of food safety. It allows to trace the path of a foodstuff throughout its production and distribution chain. The main objective of controls is to find the origin.  But also to operate a withdrawal of product which would present a sanitary risk. 


The food traceability intervenes in the whole of the labels quoted and is governed by standards as well as controls at the national and European scale. The European Union carries out permanent controls on foodstuffs (and on the entire production and distribution chain) to ensure compliance with the safety standards in force. 


Labeling standards are closely linked with quality, labels and food traceability; these rules are in place in all EU countries.  Indication of origin is mandatory for many commodities (beef, pork, poultry, sheep, goat, etc.).

Bonus:  A typical European dish

Now that you know all about European quality labels, get started on making sauerkraut for your next lunch

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