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Clarification of food packaging and labelling requirements

Man looking at two bottles of olive oil food labelling Print publication

16/06/2015

Food suppliers are still getting to grips with the EU’s new regulations concerning food and drink labelling. A ruling from Europe’s highest court on the contents of drinks packaging, interpreting the supplier’s obligations strictly, is unlikely therefore to be welcome news.

The dispute in the case [1] concerned a fruit tea drink served in Germany, whose packaging depicted raspberries and vanilla flowers but which actually contained neither product within the tea itself. The Court referred the question of whether the packaging infringed the EU law on food labelling regulation [2] back to the German courts for determination, but the Court did stipulate that EU law prevents food and drink manufacturers from “giving the impression, by means of the appearance, description or pictorial representation” that a particular ingredient is in a product when it is not.

Even if the product contains a comprehensive and accurate description of the ingredients elsewhere on the packaging, this will not overcome misleading labelling.

In the light of this ruling, food manufacturers and processors should check their packaging does not contain potentially misleading names, descriptions or images.

Separately, the UK Government has published guidance for food producers and food service companies to ensure compliance with the new food labelling regime, which came into effect last December. The Government guidance is available here. We have previously produced a short checklist for food businesses which can be accessed here.

If you would like to discuss your food labelling and packaging obligations please contact the writer or your usual contact in the Walker Morris Food and Drink Group.

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[1] Case C-194/14 Bundesverband der Verbraucherzentralen und Verbraucherverbände – Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband e.V. v Teekanne GmbH & Co. KG
[2] EU Directive 2000/13. The Directive is implemented into UK national law by the Food Labelling Regulations 1996.

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