Ultimately, the Bulgaria Parliament voted the bill into national law during the lock-down, resulting in a new primary legislative act as of 9 June 2020.
The New Law does not dispute the higher rank of the Food Information Regulation. However, it regulates the use of the terms "Produced (extracted) in Bulgaria" ("Добит в България") and "Product from Bulgaria" ("Продукт от България"). The wording "Produced in Bulgaria" can be used for primary products extracted/grown in the territory of Bulgaria.
As for the products designated as being "Product from Bulgaria", the Law requires that the main ingredient of the food has to be obtained in Bulgaria and that all stages of the food's production process have to be carried out in the territory of the country.
Both designations can be used in combination with e.g. a geographical map or other symbol containing information indicating that the food is produced in Bulgaria.
The Law does not explicitly regulate the question whether the use of the country's map or other symbols which are recognisable by the average user as Bulgarian ones (e.g. tricolor of the flag, symbols of traditional embroidery showing "genus" and "family", etc.), can be used as claims that the product is manufactured in Bulgaria despite the fact that the said product does not meet the newly introduced legal requirements for the terms "Produced in Bulgaria" and "Product from Bulgaria".
Whether such cases will be considered in the future as "misleading" for consumers will be decided by the court.
Regulation of the online and distance food sales
The boom in e-commerce during the quarantine period was also reflected in the newly adopted Law. It provides that distance and online sales of food can only be carried out by food business operators registered for such activities. The legislator's aim is to have a register which may facilitate the BFSA's2 control over food fraud and pirated products.
The New Law affects all online and distance selling food business operators who want to carry out or to continue to carry out such activities in Bulgaria. The market players have a period of three months to bring their activities in line with the new rules.
In addition, the Law explicitly prohibits the online and distance sale of food for infants and young children and food for special medical purposes.
Speaking of children - the Law introduces a ban on the participation of children in advertising or other forms of commercial communications of genetically modified food and food for which there are regulatory restrictions to be used by children, as well as food that contains ingredients and substances with nutritional or physiological effects which do not meet the requirements for healthy eating as stipulated in the national legislation.
Registration procedure for food supplements and food for athletes
In the past placing food supplements on the Bulgarian market required a simple notification procedure. As of the entry into force of the New Law, food business operators are obliged to register each food supplement or food for athletes with BFSA before releasing it on the Bulgarian market. The application will be based on a template to be approved and published on the BFSA website.
BFSA is entitled to request the business operator to submit research or data that establish compliance with the requirements for the composition, the characteristics and the purpose of the products, as well as other necessary information. Further BFSA may request the specialised institutions in the country (i.e. the Center for Risk Assessment, the National Center for Public Health and Analysis, the Anti-Doping Center, etc.) to provide an opinion on the compliance of the product applied for registration, with the law. Food supplements and foods for athletes will be recorded in a public register.
It is not yet known whether the notifications of food supplements made under the old law will be officially recognised and entered into the said public register or whether BFSA will require these food supplements to be re-registered under the new regime.
Notification procedure for infant formulas, follow-on formulas and foods containing added vitamins and minerals
Food business operators will be required to notify the Ministry of Health before placing infant formulas, follow-on formulas and foods containing added vitamins and minerals on the Bulgarian market. This practically means that control over these types of foods will be dualistic - by the Ministry of Health and the BFSA, which is structurally subordinated to the Ministry of Agriculture, Food and Forestry. This type of control is reminiscent of the situation before the establishment of the BFSA and the unification of official food control.
This article was first published in the European Food and Feed Law Review, Volume 15 (2020), Issue 4.