The Italian Competition Authority (Autorità Garante della Concorrenza e del Mercato, the AGCM) recently imposed a fine of €250,000 on a manufacturer for using unauthorized health claims in the promotion of a food supplement, which was deemed to constitute misleading advertising under Italian law.
The product in question had proven anti-oxidant properties; however, the company made, through various channels (including TV, radio, press and the company’s website), a number of claims that went beyond those authorized under the EU Health Claims Regulation (EC) 1924/2006, which attracted the scrutiny of the AGCM. In particular, the health claims were not supported by sufficient scientific evidence and thus violated the Italian rules prohibiting misleading advertising.
The AGCM also found that the claims were in breach of the Italian Ministry of Health’s 2012 Guidelines concerning the advertising of physiological effects of herbal substances (Linee Guida Ministeriali di Riferimento per gli Effetti Fisiologici), issued to regulate health claims for botanical and herbal substances pending the enactment of specific EU regulation. As a result, the AGCM ruled that the Company’s promotional campaign violated national legislation on misleading advertising, prohibited the further use of the product, and sanctioned the Company to pay a €250,000 fine.
This decision is yet another demonstration of how vigorously Italian authorities enforce the EU Health Claims Regulation and related national rules. Food business operators should continue to closely monitor developments in this area and ensure that their labeling and advertising practices in the European Union comply with the EU Health Claims Regulation and applicable national rules.
The AGCM decision is available in Italian here.