Food Law News - EU - 2003

Commission Press Release (IP/03/225), 13 February 2003

SUPPLEMENTS / LABELLING - Free movement of goods: the Commission takes action against two Member States

The European Commission has sent a formal request Germany asking it to eliminate unjustified obstacles to the free movement of goods in the Internal Market (in violation of Articles 28 to 30 of the EC Treaty). The obstacle relates garlic-based food supplements. The Commission's request takes the form of a reasoned opinion, the second stage of the infringement procedure provided for by Article 226 of the EC Treaty. If the national authority does not reply satisfactorily within two months of receiving the reasoned opinion, the Commission may decide to refer the matter to the Court of Justice. The Commission has also decided to refer Italy to the Court of Justice concerning another obstacle. This relates to foods for particular nutritional uses.

Germany - garlic-based food supplements

The Commission has sent a reasoned opinion to Germany concerning the national authorities' practice of always regarding capsule-type products containing dried garlic as medicines, and thus subject to particularly bureaucratic marketing authorisation procedures, whereas the products concerned are more properly to be regarded as food products.

In the Commission's view, such a practice is incompatible with the principle of the free movement of goods, as it makes the marketing of these goods more difficult and is disproportionate to the stated objective of protecting the consumer.

Italy - labelling of foodstuffs

The Commission has decided to take Italy to the Court of Justice in connection with the labelling and packaging requirements for certain products (e.g. bars and drinks intended mainly to help athletes replenish the nutritional substances consumed during physical effort) which, in Italy, are subject to authorisation prior to being placed on the market.

According to the Italian provisions, the registration number and the date of authorisation must be stated on the product's label and/or packaging. As a result, EU-based manufacturers (or whoever is responsible for placing the product on the market in Italy) must relabel or repackage the product to provide this information. The Court of Justice has already examined similar regulations (cases C-217/99 and C-55/99), and concluded that the additional burden imposed, in terms of time and cost, was not justified where it did not guarantee per se that the product complied with public health requirements, nor provide users with information concerning actual verification that there was no risk to health.

Moreover, the Commission already has a case pending before the Court of Justice (see IP/02/999) concerning the application of the prior authorisation procedure to products legally manufactured and marketed in another Member State.

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