Belgian authorities have recently adopted guidelines on the use of the term ‘artisanal’ and its derivatives in the names of products.

The guidelines apply to all food and non-food products marketed in Belgium unless other rules apply. Food business operators which are not established in Belgium but operate on the Belgian market are also required by Belgian authorities to adhere to the guidelines.

When a product can be called ‘artisanal’?

There are cumulative criteria for a product to qualify as ‘artisanal’:

  • Nature or quality of the ingredients, in particular the principal or characteristic ingredients of the final product, e.g. unprocessed, absence of additives, etc.;
  • Result of a production or processing, e.g. food produced according to a traditional recipe;
  • Production at a (very) small scale, e.g. micro-brewery producing small quantities of beer.

Justification towards consumers

According to the guidelines, food business operators using the term ‘artisanal’ for their products should further justify the claim in the relevant advertising, label or on a website to which the ad or label refers.

Use of similar terms

The guidelines are limited to the use of terms ‘artisanal’ and ‘artisanal production’ only. They do not cover other terms such as ‘pure’, ‘home made’ or ‘traditional’. However, food business operators must always be able to justify the use of these terms.

Food produced by artisans

Although there is a specific legislation in Belgium which establishes the criteria for the recognition as artisan[1], it expressly excludes products from its scope. This means that a product cannot be automatically called ‘artisanal’ just because it is produced by an artisan.

Sanctions

The guidelines reiterate the prohibition on misleading food information under Regulation 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers. Food business operators must therefore be able to justify the use of the term ‘artisanal’ for their products. In case of misleading statements, a penalty of up to 80,000 € will apply[2] or 200,000 € if bad faith is established.

Although the guidelines are not legally binding as such, they do reflect the position of the Belgian authorities and their way of proceeding in case of controls.