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European Court of Justice Press Release, 8 June 2017
Judgment in Case C-296/16 P - Dextro Energy GmbH & Co. KG v Commission
The Court dismisses Dextro Energy’s appeal against the judgment of the General Court which found that the Commission had not erred in concluding that those claims encouraged the consumption of sugar, given that such encouragement is incompatible with generally accepted nutrition and health principles
The German company Dextro Energy manufactures various products, in different formats, made almost entirely of glucose for the German and European markets. The ‘classic cube’ is made up of eight tablets, each of which contains 6 grammes of glucose.
In 2011, Dextro Energy requested authorisation [See note 1 below] 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’. [See note 2 below]
In January 2015, despite a positive opinion by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which considered that a cause-and-effect link could be established between the consumption of glucose and normal energy-yielding metabolism, the Commission refused [See note 3 below] to authorise those health claims. The Commission took the view that the health claims in question conveyed a contradictory and ambiguous message to consumers, as they encouraged the consumption of sugar, whereas national and international authorities recommended a reduction in sugar intake, on the basis of generally accepted scientific advice. Even if those health claims were to be authorised only subject to specific conditions of use and/or were accompanied by additional statements or warnings, the Commission considered that the message nevertheless remained confusing for the consumer, with the result that the claims in question should not be authorised.
By judgment of 16 March 2016 [See note 4 below], the General Court dismissed Dextro Energy’s application, thus confirming the Commission’s decision.
In its judgment, the General Court observed, in particular, that, although the Commission had not questioned the advice given by EFSA (the sole task of that authority being to verify whether the health claims are based on scientific evidence and whether the wording of the claims met certain criteria), it was required, as a risk-management measure, to take account of the 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 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.
By today’s judgment, the Court of Justice dismisses Dextro Energy’s appeal against the judgment of the General Court as none of the arguments put forward by that company can succeed.