The Bread and Butter of Food Law: Being Successful When Facing Challenges
Having worked as a food lawyer since the industry’s infancy, Giorgio Rusconi has gained significant experience in the field of food & beverage law, assisting Italian and foreign clients with food hygiene, labelling and advertising, additives, organic farming, geographical indications/destinations of origin, packaging, as well as responsibilities of food business operators.
Giorgio handles client contracts, including those for stakeholders within the food chain, ensuring regulatory compliance and advising on issues of Italian and European law. He is also assisting clients on contractual issues in a number of research development projects regarding food innovation. He touches on how he has developed his firm in Italy, the assistance food companies often need and future challenges lawyers may face in the food law sector.
What features do you consider winning for a law firm?
According to my opinion and in light of my experience, a law firm should be aware that it is crucial to offer its clients a wide range of qualified services, with a high level of specialisation.
I am particularly proud of the value my Firm offer for superior legal work. This is made possible through:
- exceptional continuity of carefully selected legal staff;
- effective teamwork among partners and associates;
- high standards for prompt and responsive service;
- a diverse range of skills and experience; and
- flexibility so that the staff can adapt the support according to the way the clients prefer to receive legal services and assistance.
Every day we understand better and better the importance of a coordinated and integrated approach between legal and technical-scientific expertise.
What do you mean when you talk about “high level of specialisation”?
The world of legal consultancy is changing rapidly. Clients increasingly require expertise in very sector-specific areas.
In light of this, more than 15 years ago, I personally decided to approach the field of food & beverage law and I have acquired a significant experience in connection to all legal issues related to this industry. In 2017, I was named Food Lawyer of the Year for Italy, and The Legal 500 has ranked the firm as the sole in Italy in Tier 1 for the last three years.
Mondini Rusconi Food Law Team, under my coordination, is in the position to offer out-of-court advice and assistance in litigation with reference to all food law-related aspects, according to the principle “from farm to fork” which has been inspiring EU laws: from human consumption to animal feed, from special food to food supplements, from genetically-modified products to novel food.
In particular the assistance can involve: product liability issues; labelling and advertising; regulatory matters; contract issues; as well as in litigation, providing legal advice, among others, within advertising projects or for the creation of labels, both at the national and international level (for instance verifying the presence of all information required by law, the choice of a trade name, the wording adopted, or ensuring that the label bears no misleading nutritional claim); providing assistance both out of court in drafting contracts for companies operating at all levels in food industry, and in litigation before all authorities responsible for controlling food hygiene and safety.
Which kind of assistance do food industry companies need? Are they more interested in a local or in an international approach?
Since the beginning of my personal experience in the food law sector, I have understood that food companies’ needs can vary a lot between them, involving several different aspects: from the presentation of products (e.g. packaging, labelling and advertising) to the best practices of production; from the correct interpretation and application of food safety principles, to the food business development (including the management of the procedures for the authorisation, to placement on the market of special food, genetically-modified food, or novel food).
In light of these different requests, the food lawyer’s perspective cannot be limited and it must be aware of international dimension of many food business operators.
Being aware of the needs of multinational entities, my team maintain relationships with experts from different countries, and is in a position to provide assistance and consulting with reference to the Italian and EU markets as well as non-EU countries.
Through our standing relationships built over the years with foreign colleagues, in 2007 I promoted (in partnership with KWG in Germany) the creation of FLN – Food Lawyers’ Network Worldwide, an international pool of professionals set up with the purpose of sharing opinions and enhancing exchange of views and experiences between lawyers with expertise on food law from all over the world as well as offering integrated legal services to multinationals operating in the agri-food industry. Currently, the network numbers some 40 members and is able to provide assistance in approximately fifty nations. Some network members render consulting services to government agencies in emerging countries (including in the Middle East) to provide more in-depth insight into food safety issues, and assist local law-makers in the implementation of the related body of rules (where it is still non-existent).
Legal and innovation: do you think that lawyers are ready for the new challenges of food sector?
Innovative sectors of food industry need to improve both their image and the way they operate, by ensuring that consumers are always aware of the developments that involve them.
Every day we understand better and better the importance of a coordinated and integrated approach between legal and technical-scientific expertise. It is increasingly evident that a guiding and coordination role within the legal sector cannot be separated from an adequate scientific and technical support.
To ensure that companies operating in the food industry have a wider range of services, our firm works with specialised laboratories capable of providing timely, individualised counter-analysis, as well as with companies specialising in the field of food audits. Also through the collaboration with these special partners, we have the possibility to approach a wide number of issues, not only from the legal point of view, but also deepening the scientific aspects in order to better understand the best way to solve clients’ problems and find out new business opportunities. Inter alia, we are involved in an innovative movement regarding authenticity of wine, focused on the certification of authenticity and origin of products (e.g. through DNA profiling) and the measurement of known food components ‘good’ and ‘bad’, as well as the detection and identification of unknowns (e.g. through non-targeted analyses). This integrated scientific and legal approach is aimed at supporting brand protection and defending “made in Italy”.
Food & Beverage Law Practice: what are the key factors within your team?
I believe that the key factors within the Food & Beverage Law Team at Mondini Rusconi are the expertise of the food and drink lawyers as well as their passion and dedication. Omar Cesana, Lavinia Romani and Giulia Cozzolino are much dedicated to ensure a high standard level of consultancy, Interaction with the IP department is also important to offer a wide range of services.