Beware of fake food on your vacation


Parma ham, parmesan cheese and Rioja wines are attractive souvenirs for many vacationing Swedes – but can you be sure that you are getting what you pay for? According to a survey, up to 10% of the most common products with a protected designation of origin within the EU are fake.

Protected Designation of Origin (PDO).A protected designation of origin protects wine, liquor, agricultural products and foodstuffs that are produced within the EU from being abused, imitated or that references are made that are connected to the product.

However, despite the beneficial purpose of protected designation of origin, countless attempts are made to sell mainly alcohol and foodstuffs by sponging off more well known brand names. The biggest problem is that consumers are forced to pay more than what has been promised. The European Union Intellectual Property Office, EUIPO, has estimated that this costs European consumers EUR 2.3 billion each year.

Imitations are the biggest problem

The largest share of violations, 42%, is due to imitation of SUB products, while another 38% is due to misleading information about the origin of non-SUB products. The remaining 21% of the SUB violations consists of actual SUB products that deviate from the specifications.

In order to be sure that you are actually getting the product you are paying for, both when shopping in Sweden and on vacation, you should keep a look out for the label showed here, called Protected Designation of Origin (PDO) in English or Skyddad ursprungsbeteckning (SUB) in Swedish. On the EU commission’s website you can see a few additional variations that are also valid.

EU quality logos (in English)

Few products pull the statistics up

Designation of Origin labels include roughly 3500 products, which is roughly 5% of the food industry in the EU. At the same time, a very small amount of designations represent 86% of the export within the EU; Champagne and cognac from France; Scottish whisky from the UK and grana padano and parmigiano reggiano from Italy.

The 10 largest SUB products within the EU
(alphabetical order)

  1. Bavarian beer (Germany)
  2. Cava (Spain)
  3. Champagne (France)
  4. Cognac (France)
  5. Grana padano (Italy)
  6. Parmigiano reggiano (Italy
  7. Pays d’Oc (France)
  8. Prosciutto di Parma (Italy)
  9. Rioja (Spain)
  10. Scottish whisky (UK)

When can Protected Designation of Origin be used?

  • If the product originates from a certain city or region, or in exceptional cases, a country.
  • If the product has a quality or characteristics that are entirely or partially due to a certain geographical environment, with the natural and human factors that are associated with it.
  • If the product have been produced within the defined area throughout all steps of the production.