The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has found that a correct and complete list of ingredients can be part of an overall misleading food label in a case challenging a German tea company’s “Felix Raspberry and Vanilla Adventure” (“Felix Himbeer-Vanille Abenteuer”) product for having no flavorings derived from raspberries or vanilla. Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände v. Teekanne GmbH & Co. KG, No. C-195/14 (E.C.J., order entered June 4, 2015).
Teekanne advertises its tea product as fruit tea with natural flavorings and a raspberry-vanilla taste, and the label features depictions of raspberries and vanilla flowers and a seal indicating the product contains only natural ingredients. The ingredient list includes “natural flavouring with a taste of vanilla” and “natural flavouring with a taste of raspberry,” according to the court. “That list thus expresses, in a manner free from doubt, the fact that the flavourings used are not obtained from vanilla and raspberries but only taste like them,” the court said. “The fruit tea is therefore presented in such a way as to be capable, even in the case of a reasonably well-informed and reasonably observant and circumspect consumer, of creating a false impression as to its composition.” The court further notes that the ingredient list is displayed in small script intended to dissuade consumers from noticing it. “[T]he list of ingredients, even though correct and comprehensive, may in some situations not be capable of correcting sufficiently the consumer’s erroneous or misleading impression concerning the characteristics of a foodstuff that stems from the other items comprising its labeling,” the court said, and remanded the case to a German court for determination of costs.