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Top EU Court upholds ban on sugar health claims

08 June 2017, 14:39 CET
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Top EU Court upholds ban on sugar health claims

Justice - Photo © Yanchenko - Fotolia

(LUXEMBOURG) - The EU's top Court upheld a Commission ban on health claims relating to glucose Thursday, saying these encouraged sugar consumption against generally accepted principles of nutrition and health.

The Court today dismissed the appeal of German company Dextro Energy against the judgement of the General Court which had found that the European Commission had not erred in concluding that those claims encouraged the consumption of sugar.

Dextro Energy manufactures products made almost entirely of glucose for the German and European markets. Its 'classic cube' is made up of eight tablets, each of which contains 6 grammes of glucose.

In 2011, Dextro Energy requested authorisation to use the following health claims: 'glucose is metabolised within the body's normal energy metabolism'; 'glucose supports normal physical activity'; ' glucose contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism'; 'glucose contributes to normal energy-yielding metabolism during exercise'; and 'glucose contributes to normal muscle function'.

In January 2015 - despite a positive opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) - the Commission refused to authorise those health claims.

The Commission took the view that the health claims in question conveyed a contradictory and ambiguous message to consumers, encouraging consumption of sugar, whereas national and international authorities recommended a reduction in sugar intake, on the basis of generally accepted scientific advice.

Even if health claims were authorised only subject to specific conditions of use and/or with additional statements or warnings, the Commission considered the message confusing for the consumer, with the result that the claims in question should not be authorised.

By judgement of 16 March 2016, the EU's General Court dismissed Dextro Energy's application, confirming the Commission's decision. It observed that, although the Commission had not questioned the EFSA advice, it was required, as a risk-management measure, to take account of applicable EU legislation as well as other legitimate relevant factors.

Since, according to generally accepted nutrition and health principles, the average consumer must reduce his or her sugar consumption, the Court said the Commission did not err in finding that the health claims in question, which highlight only the beneficial effects of glucose for energy metabolism without mentioning the dangers inherent in increased sugar consumption, were ambiguous and misleading and could not therefore be authorised.

The Court of Justice's judgement dismisses Dextro Energy's appeal against the judgement of the General Court, as it says none of the arguments put forward by that company can succeed.

Judgement in Case C-296/16 P Dextro Energy GmbH & Co. KG v Commission

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