Unfair Advertising: Health Claims Concerning Foods in Germany

Health claims pertaining to foods have to satisfy strict requirements if they are to avoid infringing competition law. That was the verdict of the Landgericht Rostock (Regional Court of Rostock) in a recent ruling.

Health claims regarding foods are forbidden if they do not satisfy the requirements laid down in the so-called “Health Claims Regulation” (Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006).

This was the case in a legal dispute that was tried before the Landgericht Rostock. A food manufacturer had promoted a granulate with statements, inter alia, that it supports the functioning of the bladder and prostate (“[s]tärkt die Blasen- und Prostatafunktion”), in addition to making other health claims. A competition association successfully sued for an injunction on the grounds that this represented an infringement of competition law.

The LG Rostock held that the information on the packaging did not comply with the relevant EU Regulation on nutrition and health claims made on foods, according to which it is necessary for information concerning foods or related advertising to include a notice referring to the importance of a varied and balanced diet as well as a healthy lifestyle. The Court ruled that the statement “[s]tärkt die Blasen- und Prostatafunktion” was a health claim that established a connection between the food and one’s health. The LG Rostock stated that no appropriate notices regarding the importance of a healthy lifestyle and balanced diet were featured either in the advertising or on the packaging for the granulate.

The Court went on to say that health claims can be used to promote foods, but in order to protect consumers these products must be safe and include appropriate labeling. Otherwise, this amounts to unfair advertising as in the present case. The LG Rostock, therefore, ruled that this advertising was anti-competitive and the action for an injunction was granted.

Advertising is subject to strict regulations, especially when it comes food. That is why manufacturers ought to exercise particular caution with respect to advertising so as not to violate competition law. Anti-competitive conduct may result in costly and time-consuming legal disputes or written warnings and injunction suits. For this reason, it is crucial to obtain competent legal advice. Lawyers who are versed in the field of competition law can advise companies and see to it that claims are enforced or fended off in the event that infringements of competition law occur.

GRP Rainer LLP is an international firm of lawyers and tax advisors who are specialists in commercial law. The firm counsels commercial and industrial companies and corporations, as well as associations, small- and mid-sized businesses, self-employed freelancers and private individuals worldwide from offices in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Dusseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London UK.

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Disclaimer: While every effort has been made to ensure the accuracy of this publication, it is not intended to provide legal advice as individual situations will differ and should be discussed with an expert and/or lawyer. For specific technical or legal advice on the information provided and related topics, please contact the author.

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