How do I know if a product is made in France?
How do I know if a product is made in France?

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Made in France

How do I know if a product is made in France?

Estimated reading time : 7 minutes

Before jumping down this rabbit hole of rules and regulations, it’s worth noting that the label ‘Made in France’ is a strong selling point. An Ifop survey for Pro France (September 2018) found that three quarters of French people said they would be prepared to pay more for a product made in France, and that two thirds ‘often’ or ‘systematically’ take the issue of product origin into account when they buy a product or service.

Food and drink are arguably the greatest commodities France has to offer. Each food category (meat, olive oil, wine etc) has to meet specific packaging criteria laid down by European guidelines. You can find these here.

Made in France

Made or just modified in France?

The Customs Code of the DGDDI (the General Directorate of Customs and Indirect Taxation) are responsible for obtention of the ‘Made in France’ label. They are responsible for protecting the French origin marking on products at import.

According to Article 39 of the Customs Code, a product is “Made in France" if it has ‘undergone its last substantial transformation (a), is economically justified (b), is carried out in a company equipped for this purpose, resulting in the manufacture of a new product or one that corresponds to an important stage of manufacture’ in France. Alternatively, the label can be attributed to cases where at least 45% of the unit cost price is acquired in France. The two examples given by ‘Les clés du Made in France’, ‘Direction Générale des Douanes et Droits Indirects’ in November 2016 are outlined below:-

1. A violin crafted from imported wood in France could be labelled ‘Made in France’ if the value added to the wood being transformed is at least 45%, or if the accessories such as strings and dials were made in France.

2. A shirt entirely made outside of France, but has the buttons sewn on in France cannot be labelled ‘Made in France’.

You can find a list of products ‘Made in France’, together with a map showing points of sale here.

‘Made in France’ is a guarantee that 45% of the unit cost price or last substantial modification took place in France.

What are the drawbacks of the 'Made in France' certification?

The French are understandably seething to see food products verified legitimately as ‘Made in France’ when often European or even international ingredients have been simply sliced, diced or cooked in France and then had the label slapped onto the packaging. Even more dishonest is the use of cleverly designed logos to mislead the consumers into believing the product has been made in France, when no part of the production took place on French soil.

Credit where it’s due- the ‘Made in France’ label does acknowledge that some raw materials are not available in France and allows some leeway. On the other hand, it puts all products on the same footing- even those products that could be made 100% in France are grouped alongside those which cannot, and there is no distinction made between raw material origin.

While trying to simplify the mishmash of international production chains into a dichotomy consumers can understand- at the same time as supporting French industry- ‘Made in France’ has rendered it impossible to distinguish between the feasibility of each product being made in France, supplier origin, types of raw materials used and the impact of transport pollution or carbon emissions.

To add a little more confusion, there are quite a few other certifications available in France to help the discerning buyer in their choice of product...

What other certifications indicate if a product is made in France?

There are currently 5 main national certifications in addition to the 'Made in France' label seen above.  These work alongside the more generally more relaxed regional labels.  

Some (similar to 'Made in France') cover a wide range of product types.  Others concern a specific type of product or industry.  For example, the 'Terre Textile Label' deals with, yes you guessed it, textiles, while 'Designations d'Origines' (AOC and PDO) are applicable to food and wine. 

Origine France Garantie

Created by Yves Jégo and approved by the National Assembly in May 2011, this is probably the easiest certification to understand, in that it’s a slightly stricter version of the Customs Code. For a product to be certified as "Origine France Garantie", at least 50% of the unit cost price must be acquired in France- and the place where the product takes on its essential or definitive characteristics must be located in France.

These specifications are verified by an independent audit. Each company is given a certification number and anyone, via an iOS or Android app, can check whether or not a particular product or company has the OFG label. They had over 600 members at the end of 2017.

Famously, the two criteria allow cars assembled in French factories to obtain the ‘Origine France Garantie’ label, despite most spare parts being imported from abroad. For example, Toyota Yaris was able to obtain the ‘Origine France Garantie’ certificate in 2012.

Although most of the work, both assembly and finishing, is carried out in France and, as such, supports the local and national economy (via taxes, jobs, etc.), the same drawbacks apply as to ‘Made in France’. By no stretch of the imagination could we say that this guarantee enables shoppers to easily find and support small local artisans struggling to make ends meet.

The Living Heritage Company (EPV) label

I love this certification and everything it represents, namely in its recognition of excellent, traditional or innovative craftsmanship and know-how across a variety of sectors. I can’t believe it was only set up in 2005! It is managed by the Ministry of Economy and Finance and renewed every five years. The entry decision is made by a commission composed of technical experts from the same craft or industrial sector. It is sensibly split into sixteen sections, from furniture and fashion through to medical supplies.

This label has the double advantage of recognising and highlighting companies that manufacture products on French territory, as well as offering quality products that reflect French excellence.

Looking for a painting restorer? A chair maker? The annuaire metiers d'art is the place to go!

As much as I love the idea behind this site, I must admit that the site itself is a disappointment: more often than not a picture is missing from the main page, contact info is minimal (just a telephone number without any links or addresses), translation is non-existent and the map is specific to region.

More importantly, and this is a biggy, the certification does not acknowledge craftspeople simply hand- making things locally…that’s to say although the two are not exclusive, the focus is on excellence at a national scale rather than supporting the local economy at town or even village level. The EPV label is concerned with recognizing excellent or traditional craftmanship rather than aiding consumers find products made locally in France.  This is not the place to go when in need of a little gift or pick-me-up, handmade with love by someone around the corner.

The Terre Textile label

The Terre Textile label was created in 2008 by the France Terre Textile Federation, which aims to reflect the textile know-how of each region. It is divided into 5 sub-labels: Vosges, Alsace, Nord, Troyes -Champagne and Auvergne-Rhône-Alpes.

The audits are carried out by two independent organisations: the Institut Français du Textile et de l'Habillement and CETELOR - Centre d'Essais Textile Lorrain.

Designations of Origin

Controlled and Protected Designations of Origin (AOC and PDO) identify agricultural, agro-food and wine products for which all stages of production, elaboration and processing have been carried out in the same geographical area, according to a recognised standard of practice.

The AOC meets the same criteria as the PDO. It is also the first step towards obtaining the PDO, which is recognised at the European Union level.

The Protected Geographical Indication (PGI) label

The PGI isn’t as strict as the AOC and PDO. Indeed, the three-stage production, processing and preparation of the product- do not necessarily have to be carried out in the same geographical area. There is, however, a notable exception to the criteria for wine production, where all the operations carried out, from the harvesting of the grapes to the bottling, must have been carried out in the geographical area in question.

Regional certifications

Associations of professionals in different regions created these certifications, with the objective of promoting products made in that particular region. These associations are self-managed, and some of the specifications are stricter than others. They are not verified by a third party.

Some examples of regional labels are:-

- Produit en Bretagne

- Marque Savoie

- Saveurs en Or (Hauts de France)

Good to know

• The big ‘CE’ you see on products sold in the European Economic Area is entirely unlinked to the origin of the product. It indicates that the product complies with the technical standards in force within the European Union.

• The brands ‘Reflets de France’, ‘Saveurs de Nos Régions’, ‘Nos Régions Ont du Talent’ are brands created and managed by large distribution chains like Carrefour, Leclerc and Auchan- they are not regional labels.

What are the downsides of the current certifications?

All of these certifications have their upsides and unique strengths. I use them at the supermarket, no problem. But they don’t help me to find things handmade locally within France, and they definitely don’t take into account the different aspects of products or the details involved in transportation and sourcing of raw materials.

By using these black and white criteria, raw materials from Belgium are on the same footing as those from Africa or China because, by definition, materials either come from France or not. The transportation pollution is unaccounted for, as is the effect on the source country; issues of forced labour, child labour and depletion of natural resources all need to be seriously considered.

Why do we need a more flexible system concerning handmade goods in France?

Finding goods with an 100% French origin is tricky, and let’s be honest, unreasonable. Let’s look at one example. Cotton has only been grown in France (the Gers) since 2017 by three guys on a family farm, on a scale far below that required for French production. So it’s unfair to compare an artisan making cotton baby clothes like Minus et Bouche Cousue with their market stall neighbour selling handmade herbal teas, using herbs from their garden or local scrubland (Lo Saveurs Infuses), or a local baker using seasonal fruits and French ingredients (L’Atélier d’Eleonore).

According to their specialisation, each artisan can only do their best to provide high quality, sustainable goods within reason. Looking again at cotton as the example, over the last ten years in France I have come across several creators like Caroline Joyeux, who reuse off-cuts from French designer brands to create unique, handmade handbags. A kind of luxury upcycling if you will.

In a similar vein, leather artisans such as au Au Fil de Colines give reused leather a second life through hand-making bags, purses and similar items. Surely the effort these kinds of artisans take to provide high quality products, whilst at the same time ensuring they are limiting waste and minimising pollution deserves recognition? 

Where can I find local creators and talk to them about their products?

A site such as or can provide these artisans with a voice. It can describe what the artisan deems important. Crucially, the consumer can contact the artisan to ask directly. Through a more flexible, transparent system, the consumer is ultimately the decision maker in determining if the product fits both their needs and their ethical and environmental requirements.

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