Commission Press Release (IP/02/1155), 25 July 2002
The European Commission has decided to formally to ask France to bring its national law on the use of languages for labelling foodstuffs into line with European law. The Commission has decided to call on Austria to lift its ban on the distance selling of food supplements and to complete its control procedures for the marketing of food supplements within reasonable periods which are known to third parties. The Commission's requests take the form of reasoned opinions, the second stage in the infringement procedure pursuant to Article 226 of the Treaty. In the absence of a satisfactory response within two months of receipt of the reasoned opinion, the Commission may decide to refer the Member States concerned to the Court of Justice. The cases are all breaches of the rules of the EC Treaty prohibiting any unjustified or disproportionate obstacle to the free movement of goods (Articles 28 to 30).
France - use of languages in the labelling of foodstuffs
The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to the French authorities asking them to bring French law into line with a judgment handed down by the Court of Justice on 12 September 2000 in preliminary ruling C-366/98 concerning the use of languages for labelling foodstuffs.
As it stands, French law provides that any particulars on the label of foodstuffs imported into France must be written in French.
The Commission considers that, pursuant to the aforementioned case law of the Court of Justice, the EC Treaty and Directive 2000/13/EC on the labelling and presentation of foodstuffs preclude national regulations from imposing the use of a specific language for labelling foodstuffs without allowing the use of another language that is easily understood by the consumer or allowing the consumer to be informed by other means.
For example, the Directive would allow a carton of chicken wings sold in a fast food restaurant in France to refer to the product concerned in a language other than French, such as the term "chicken wings", if the carton carried a photo clearly depicting its contents.
The French authorities have acknowledged that their legislation is incompatible with Community law, and have confirmed their intention to revise the contested legislation. Nevertheless, the proposed amendment has still not been adopted.
Austria - distance selling of food supplements
The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Austria asking it to lift its ban on the distance selling of food supplements. This ban is laid down in the Austrian law on the regulation of trade and industry (GewO). It is a barrier to intra-Community trade, and thus breaches the rules of the EC Treaty which prohibit any unjustified or disproportionate obstacle to the free movement of goods (Articles 28 to 30).
Austrian national law defines food supplements as substances intended to be consumed without serving principally as food or relaxation and without being medicinal products.
The competent authorities in Austria say that the law is necessary to protect consumers from so-called "miracle products", which are often sold at a distance in association with advertisements exaggerating their effects. The Commission, however, considers that a total ban on the distance selling of food supplements which are freely sold in other Member States constitutes a disproportionate obstacle to the free movement of goods and that there does not at present appear to be sufficient justification for it under Article 30 of the EC Treaty on grounds of health or consumer protection. The consequence of this ban is that importers of these food supplements must satisfy additional formalities in order to gain access to the Austrian market and thus to enjoy free movement of goods within the European Union.
Austria - late ban on food supplements
The Commission has decided to send a reasoned opinion to Austria inviting it to end the use of late bans on the placing on the market of food supplements. The Commission takes the view that these bans are in breach of the rules of the EC Treaty which prohibit any unjustified or disproportionate obstacle to the free movement of goods (Articles 28 to 30).
According to Article 18(2) of the Austrian law on foodstuffs (LMG), the competent authority must ban goods declared as food supplements within three months from the date on which the importer declares a product, if it does not comply with the provisions of the LMG or its implementing regulations.
The Austrian authorities reserve the right to issue such bans even after this period has elapsed. They argue that this regulation constitutes a declaration procedure and that the classification of the product must be understood to be still pending if the product has not been evaluated within three months.
The Commission, on the other, hand considers that the procedure based on Article 18 LMG combines a declaration and a check which must be completed within a reasonable period if the criteria laid down by the Court of Justice are properly applied.
The Commission is also asking that applicants be informed of the essential stages in the procedure, i.e. those concerning reception of the declaration and the conclusion of the procedure.
Information on current infringement proceedings against all Member States is
available on the Europa website at: