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CJEU: Food Labelling Must Not Mislead by Giving the Impression that an Ingredient is Present When it is Not

The Court of Justice of the European Union ("CJEU") delivered its ruling on 4 June 2015 on misleading labeling and the interpretation of Article 2(1)(a)(i) of the Labelling Directive (2000/13/EC) in caseBundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände — Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. v Teekanne GmbH & Co. KG (Case C-195/14). In its ruling, the CJEU held that it is misleading for the average-well informed consumer, if the packaging of a foodstuff gives the impression that the product contains a certain ingredient, even though it is clear from the list of ingredients that this ingredient is not present in the product.

The case concerned a fruit tea marketed by the German producer Teekanne under the name "Felix raspberry and vanilla adventure." The Federation of German Consumer Organizations ("BVV") lodged a complaint against the producer alleging that the items on the fruit tea's packaging misled the consumer. The package displayed images of raspberries and vanilla flowers and the tea was promised to contain "only natural ingredients" and "natural flavorings – raspberry-vanilla taste", but the tea did not actually contain any ingredients obtained from raspberries or vanilla, and the latter was apparent only from the list of ingredients.

The question brought before the CJEU by the German Federal Court was whether it was permissible for the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs to give the impression, by means of appearance, description or pictorial representation, that a particular ingredient is present when it is not in fact present and this is apparent solely from the list of ingredients.

In its ruling, the CJEU emphasized evaluating the general impression observed by the average consumer and noted that the concept "labeling" comprises any words, particulars, trademarks, brand name, pictorial matter or symbol relating to a foodstuff and placed on its packaging. The CJEU held that even though consumers who are interested in the exact composition of a product will read the list of ingredients, the existence of such a list may not be sufficient to correct the erroneous or misleading impression if some of the items on the packaging are misleading, erroneous, ambiguous, contradictory or incomprehensible.

In Brief

The Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority Proposes to Penalize the Finnish Bakery Federation for Unlawful Price Recommendations

On 24 June 2015, the Finnish Competition and Consumer Authority ("FCCA") submitted a proposal to the Market Court requesting a EUR 55,000 fine to be imposed on the Finnish Bakery Federation for unlawful price recommendations the Federation gave to its members in 2007–2010.

The FCCA began to investigate the matter after the Federation issued a press release in August 2010 discussing the industry's weak profitability and the pressure to raise the prices of bakery products. FCCA's investigation revealed that similar recommendations had been made over the years in other bulletins issued by the Federation, in letters to members, in speeches and in editorials in the "Leipuri" bakery trade magazine. A rise in the general level of prices, illustrated with percentage figures, had been presented as grounds for price increases. According to FCCA's penalty proposal, the aim of the price recommendations was to raise prices, achieve consistency in the level and timing of price increases, and thereby to restrict competition between companies in the bakery sector.

Finnish Confectionery and Ice Cream Tax to be Revoked as of 2017 

According to a decision made by the Finnish Ministerial Committee on Economic Policy on 29 September 2015, the tax on confectionery and ice cream will be scrapped as of the beginning of 2017. The tax on soft drinks will remain, but the scope of products included within the tax will be reconsidered.

The confectionery and ice cream tax has resulted in two state aid complaints being filed to the European Commission. The scrapping of the tax is due to discussions with the Commission, according to which the Finnish confectionery tax is unequal in its treatment of similar sorts of products and favors Finnish sweets and other products included within the tax.