Italy, Germany have their knuckles rapped

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Sports drinks, European union, European commission

Germany's classification of garlic supplements as a medicine and
Italy's draconian laws on sports drinks have incurred the wrath of
the European Commission this week.

The European Commission last week announced that it was to take action against both Italy and Germany to oblige them to remove what it claims are "unjustified obstacles to the free movement of goods"​ - in this case, sports drinks and garlic supplements.

Where national rules hinder the free movement of goods within the European Union, European companies are deprived of their right to sell their products throughout the Union on the basis of having already legally manufactured and/or marketed a product in any one Member State, the Commission pointed out. This means that consumers have less choice and risk having to pay more.

The Commission said it had sent a reasoned opinion to Germany concerning the national authorities' practice of always regarding capsule-type products containing dried garlic as medicines. This means that garlic supplements are subject to particularly bureaucratic marketing authorisation procedures, even though in every other Member State they are in fact regarded and regulated as food products.

"In the Commission's view, such a practice is incompatible with the principle of the free movement of goods, as it makes the marketing of these goods more difficult and is disproportionate to the stated objective of protecting the consumer,"​ the Commission said in a statement.

The Italian case is slightly more complicated in that it is part of a wider investigation by the Commission into Italian regulations on foods for specific nutritional purposes - such as sport drinks designed to replenish the body's fluids.

The Commission already has a case pending before the European Court of Justice against Italy on the grounds that it requires sports drinks and other similar products to apply for prior approval before being launched on the Italian market - even though they are legally manufactured in other Member States.

But the Brussels authorities have now brought another case before the ECJ, this time regarding the labelling and packaging requirements for sports drinks and foods intended to help athletes replenish the nutritional substances consumed during physical effort.

While the prior authorisation case already affects these products, the Commission is also concerned that Italian provisions require the registration number and the date of authorisation to be stated on the product's label and/or packaging, which means that all such products must be relabelled or repackaged to provide this information.

"The Court of Justice has already examined similar regulations and concluded that the additional burden imposed, in terms of time and cost, was not justified where it did not guarantee per se that the product complied with public health requirements, nor provide users with information concerning actual verification that there was no risk to health,"​ the Commission said in its statement.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Suppliers

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