4 June 2015: CJEU in Teekanne (C-195/14)
With healthy lifestyles becoming more en vogue, the popularity of such drinks as fruit teas increases. Still, advertises try to convince more consumers by purchasing them by coming up with attractive packaging, advertisements and product names. One example thereof could be "Felix Himbeer-Vanille Abenteuer" ("Felix raspberry and vanilla adventure") produced by Teekanne. The packaging shows pictures of raspberries and vanilla flowers, mentions it's a "fruit tea with natural flavourings" as well as a "fruit tea with natural flavourings - raspberry-vanilla taste". Moreover, it contains a seal indicating "only natural ingredients" inside a golden circle. Wait for it... it turns out that this fruit tea "does not in fact contain any vanilla or raspberry constituents or flavourings. The list of ingredients, which is on one side of the packaging, is as follows: ‘Hibiscus, apple, sweet blackberry leaves, orange peel, rosehip, natural flavouring with a taste of vanilla, lemon peel, natural flavouring with a taste of raspberry, blackberries, strawberry, blueberry, elderberry.’". (Par. 16) Weird, though to be honest they did mention natural flavourings so maybe consumers should just read more carefully and don't believe that 'natural ingredients' mean actual raspberries are processed in this tea?
German consumer organisation (the BVV) didn't believe that the fault was on the consumers' side and the CJEU agreed. They would even go as far as deny the misleading character of this labelling practice if only the tea contained natural flavouring obtained from raspberries or vanilla and not just natural flavouring "with a taste" of these ingredients. (Par. 29) Directive 2000/13 on labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs aims to enable consumers' informed choice with regard to food products and not mislead them. (Par. 30-32) The CJEU reiterates its previous findings that "consumers whose purchasing decisions depend on the composition of the products in question will first read the list of ingredients, the display of which is required". (Par. 37) However, accurate description of the list of ingredients does not always negate the misleading character of the labelling, taken as a whole. (Par. 38-40)
"In the event, it is for the referring court to carry out an overall examination of the various items comprising the fruit tea’s labelling in order to determine whether an average consumer who is reasonably well informed, and reasonably observant and circumspect, may be misled as to the presence of raspberry and vanilla-flower or flavourings obtained from those ingredients.
In the context of that examination, the referring court must in particular take into account the words and depictions used as well as the location, size, colour, font, language, syntax and punctuation of the various elements on the fruit tea’s packaging." (Par. 42-43)