Author: Aurimas Sobutas, Lawyer at METIDA
Nowadays, a consumer takes special care of his nutrition. Bearing this in mind the producers of food products compete with each other not only by using individual packaging design, different trademarks or special slogans, but also by marking food products with additional statements emphasising their outstanding qualities.
Such statements often attract the purchasers’ attention and facilitate determination in choosing the most suitable product. Nevertheless, we should be recalled that statements may be used only in cases where the consumer is not misled.
“no colorants”, “no preservatives”, “no flavour enhancers”
In order to use these statements for labelling of the particular food product, one must clarify if use of colorants, preservatives and flavour enhancers is allowed in production of the latter product beforehand. For example, such food additives are, in no case, allowed in butter, thus, the consumers would be misled as to exceptional features of butter (i.e. that it is free of colorants, preservatives and flavour enhancers) because butter of other producers is also free of such additives. However, such statements are possible in case where food additives are allowed and the producer does not use them. For example, such preservatives as E260 (acetic acid), E270 (lactic acid) etc. are allowed in production of unripened cheese (except for mozzarella), thus, in such cases, when no preservatives are added in the afore-mentioned product, its distinctive feature “no preservatives” could be emphasised etc.
“perfect for vegetarian, vegan and raw food diet”
There are no special rules for use of this statement; however, according to the general requirements, composition of the particular food product must meet the declared characteristics. On the other hand, the legal acts do not define the characteristics of the products which are perfect for vegetarian, vegan and raw food diet. Thus, in case of each particular product, it is recommended to individually apply for the public authority responsible for labelling of food products for clarification.
This statement may be used only when the quantity of gluten in the product does not exceed 20 mg/kg in the food product sold to the ultimate consumer. Otherwise, it would be considered that consumers are misled and use of such statement is prohibited. Thus, in each particular case, the gluten content in the food product supplied to the market must be considered.
“natural”, “of natural taste”
The statements may be used for labelling of natural mineral water and fruit or berry wine, but only in cases where they meet the rules and hygiene standards established in the national legal acts. However, marking the packaging of other food products, for example, nuts, mushrooms, berries which are natural in themselves is prohibited. Otherwise, consumers would be misled as to natural characteristics of the products although other products of the same type are characterised by the same features as well.
Improper labelling of food products may result in imposition of a fine amounting up to EUR 8,688 and a risk of possible withdrawal of the products from circulation and the duty to label the products in accordance with the nature, scope of the breach and other specific circumstances.