Commission v Austria Case C-221/00

Autor:Keller & Heckman


TO : Clients and Interested Parties

DATE : April 02, 2003

RE : European Court of Justice – Case Law Brief

Commission v Austria Case C-221/00 (& joined cases Renate Sterbenz C – 421/00 & Paul Dieter Haug C- 426/00 & 16/01)

ECJ rules that Austrian law imposing a pre-market authorisation for foodstuffs labelled with health-related information is incompatible with the general EU Food Labelling Directive

Foodstuffs (both domestic & imports) bearing “health-related” information1 cannot be marketed under the 1975 Law on “Trade in Foodstuffs, Products intended for Human Consumption, Cosmetic Products & Consumer Goods” in Austria unless a pre-market authorisation had been obtained from the Minister of Health & Environment.

The legality of this authorisation procedure was challenged by the European Commission as contrary to Directive 79/112/EEC on the labelling of foodstuffs (now Directive 2000/13/EC) and the free movement of goods. Austria was supported by Denmark.

1. EU Law

Directive 79/112/EEC on the “approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to the labelling, presentation & advertising of foodstuffs”.

- Article 2(1) (also 2(1) under Directive 2000/13/EC) prohibits labelling (a) which may mislead the purchaser to a material degree especially as to its characteristics (nature, identity, properties, composition etc.) or by attributing effects or properties it does not possess & (b) which attributes the property of preventing, treating or curing a human disease.

1 Claims in question re the joined case C 421/00, 426/00 & 16/01 - “a good name for healthy enjoyment”, “for the protection of cell membranes from free radicals”, “important for the functioning of any enzymes”, “important as a building block for bones & teeth”, “regulating the fluid balance (bladder functioning).

- Article 15 (now Article 18 of Directive 2000/13/EC) permits non-harmonised national labelling provisions only if justified on grounds of (a) protection of public health & (b) prevention of fraud.

Directive 84/450/EEC “concerning misleading advertising & comparative advertising”

- Article 7.1 permits Member States to enact national provisions “with a view to ensuring more extensive protection” for consumers with regard to misleading advertising (i.e. beyond the very general provisions banning misleading advertising as laid down under the Directive)..

2. National Law

1975 Federal Law on “Trade in Foodstuffs, Products intended for...

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