The Czech Republic loses its famous butter spread

10 January 2013

Andrea Jarolímková, Eva Bajáková

In October 2012, the Court of Justice of the EU issued a decision (C-37/11) prohibiting Czech producers from using a name for a dairy product which has been on the Czech market for over thirty years. The popular product in question, called pomazánkové máslo (butter spread), cannot contain the word "butter" in its name as its milk fat content is lower than the 80% required by EU law. The CJEU defends its position on the basis of protecting consumers from the risk of confusion of products.

The famous product was introduced in 1977, when there was a lack of milk fat products in Communist Czechoslovakia and the butter spread represented a suitable alternative. Nowadays, around 8,000 tonnes of pomazánkové máslo are produced every year in the Czech Republic. It is considered a traditional, well established product on the Czech market as well as in Czech cold cuisine.

Under Czech law, a product can be designated as pomazánkové máslo if it is made from soured cream and contains at least 31% milk fat, 42% milk or buttermilk powder and up to 58% water. However, under EU law, a product designated as butter has to contain at least 80% milk fat. There is a possibility to exempt a product from these rules if the products are traditional or describing some characteristic quality. The Czech Republic twice applied for inclusion of pomazánkové máslo in a list of traditional products being exempted from these rules but without success.

Interestingly, according to consumer surveys, two thirds of the Czech population disapprove of renaming pomazánkové máslo on the grounds that pomazánkové máslo is a traditional product for them. Arguably, the intention of protecting consumers from the risk of confusion has fallen flat again. As one will recall, EU consumer protection law has recently affected the use of the designations "tuzemský rum" and "marmalade" in the same way which was badly accepted by Czech consumers. To sum it up, as far as Czech producers in food industry are concerned, it is true that the bread always falls on the buttered (spread) side.

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

> Sarika Connoisseur Cafe Pte Ltd v Ferrero SpA

> Nutritional claims and new beer tax in France

> Indirect advertising for alcoholic beverages



Andrea Jarolimkova

Andrea Jarolímková

Associate, Prague
Czech Republic & Slovakia

Call me on: +420 226 030 500