Thursday, 31 March 2016

Sugar is bad for you, CJEU says

Sugar boosts are a common tool for intensive sports. They come in different forms, ranging from drinks to tablets. How can they be advertised, though?

The Commission takes a hard stance on this point, especially when it comes to health claims. In 2011, a German company requested the Commission's authorization to use the following claims:
 ‘glucose is metabolised within the body’s normal energy metabolism’, ‘glucose contributes to normal energyyielding metabolism’, ‘glucose supports physical activity’, ‘glucose contributes to normal energyyielding metabolism during exercise’ and ‘glucose contributes to normal muscle function during exercise'
 The European Food Safety agency, when asked for advise, answered that these claims were factually accurate, yet the Commission decided not to authorize them as they might still be confusing for consumers: they encourage the consumption of sugar, whereas health authorities around the world suggest that on average we consume too much of it already. 

The case ended up before the General Court, which decided the cases earlier this month (here the press release, while the decision is available in French here) Dextro claimed that the average consumer, who is reasonably circumspect and informed, knows that she should not consume too much sugar (para 52).
According to the Commission and the General Court, even assuming that the average consumer would know that she should avoid excessive sugar consumption, health claims such as the ones above might still lead her to consume more sugar (para 60)- considerably more since sugar boosts are only effective when they have a high sugar content. 

This case is remarkable in that it uses the notion of the average consumer, usually considered to point towards a relatively low level of consumer protection, to uphold an arguably very high level of scrutiny for health claims. The war on sugar has just begun!

PS incidentally, the Guardian just published a really interesting long read article on sugar, science and nutritional advices.

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