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European Union food quality schemes and the transformation of traditional foods into European products in Latvia and Estonia

Bardone, Ester, Spalvēna, Astra
Appetite 2019 v.135 pp. 43-53
European Union, case studies, food industry, food quality, interviews, marketing, monitoring, protected designation of origin, traditional foods, Estonia, Latvia
The aim of this qualitative case study is to examine how two post-socialist nation-states—Latvia and Estonia—have appropriated and implemented the European Union (EU) food quality schemes in order to protect traditional food products. Relying on documents, interviews and observations, the focus is on analysing the process of applying for EU quality labels such as Traditional Speciality Guaranteed (TSG) and Protected Geographical Indication (PGI). The results demonstrate that in both countries, these EU quality labels seem to compensate for a lack of national quality schemes for traditional food products. EU quality products are considered as national property and are used as tools for marketing small, post-socialist countries among member states within the EU. The state authorities in Latvia and Estonia have different degrees of intervention in the process of applying for quality labels. Micro and small-scale producers especially lack the administrative resources and expertise needed for the application, as well as surveillance. This study suggests that the implementation of the EU food quality schemes not only benefits food producers but also compels them to confront the multiple controversies related to transforming traditional foods into standardised and certified “European products”.