Nutritional claims and new beer tax in France

10 January 2013

Alexandre Vuchot, Sarah Pearce

1. Nutritional claims

Active Ingredient added in drinking milk may not be sufficient to reduce appetite

A consumer association (CLV) has obtained after two years of litigation the condemnation of a large dairy manufacturer (Candia) for misleading advertising regarding its new product "Silhouette Active”, a fresh dairy drink product which alleged it could reduce appetite. The Paris court of first instance considered that Candia failed to demonstrate its effectiveness whereas the French Food Safety Agency had itself issued two negative opinions about its so-called "active ingredient" to reduce appetite. Experts from the agency stated inter alia that “it was not possible to consider the proposed claims as being scientifically based." The court upheld the consumer association’s claim, condemning all dietary claims on the packaging of the product and its advertising. The product has been withdrawn from the market. The decision in this case was handed down before the EU regulation 2006 on nutrition and health entered into force.

Crispy potatoes found to contain double the level of carbohydrates than those indicated on the label

A distribution company which applied nutritional labelling to its packaging of crispy potato balls has been found guilty of deceit (tromperie aggravée) on the same grounds as the manufacturer of the potato product. 

Following official tests, the level of carbohydrates contained in the potato product was shown to be double that which was indicated on the labelling.  In the court’s view, the packaging misled the consumer as to the nutritional content of the product, suggesting it had a particularly low level of carbohydrates. The incorrect nutritional labelling in this instance could therefore have an impact on consumers’ health and also falls afoul of the fight against obesity, now a matter of public policy in France.

Obligatory labelling on all food products will be required under EU Regulation n°1169/2011 (the so-called INCO Regulation), by 14 December 2016, so this decision is timely.  All professionals in the industry are therefore encouraged to implement greater conformity checks in order to ensure that labelling of food products accurately reflects their true nutritional content. 

2. Food and drink taxes

The new Goldmine to reduce the deficit - new tax on beer in France

After the so-called “soda tax”, supposedly created “to fight obesity” but which turned out to simply be a means of bailing out the French state’s budgetary deficit, another tax, this time on beer, was approved (as part of the new social security budget) on 3 December 2012 by the French Parliament. The beer tax will increase on average by 160%.

Unlike Denmark, which recently decided to withdraw its “hamburger tax”, taxing fatty products, the French Government also intends to implement a “fat tax” on products containing palm tree oil. Most commonly referred as the “Nutella” tax, owing to the use of palm tree oil in Nutella, the intention is for it to be implemented within the frame of a new legislation on public health, scheduled for debate during 2013.

This would be the latest in a series of taxes which have been introduced with public health objectives but, which most commentators have considered, are really used to cut state deficits in France - to the detriment of the food and beverage sector.

Other articles related to the Food Law Digest Newsletter for January 2013:

> The regulation of transfer agreements for agricultural products – an update on the “Liberalisation Decree”

> Poland: Dairy producers against private label products

> Popular wine brand 'Tokaj' remains in Slovakia

> Deficiencies in food control in Sweden

> CJEU to claify dispute between Barcardi and Mevi on customs duty suspension arrangements

> The Czech Republic loses its famous butter spread

> Sarika Connoisseur Cafe Pte Ltd v Ferrero SpA

 > Indirect advertising for alcoholic beverages