A recent ruling of the European Court of Justice (
Judgment in Case C-544/10 Deutsches Weintor eG v Land
Rheinland-Pfalz) examined issues surrounding what constituted a
health claim for a product under Health & Nutrition Claims
Regulation 1924/2006 (NHCR). The case concerned specifically
the use of the term 'easily digestible' in relation to
wine. It was found that a description, indicating reduced
acidity levels, constituted a health claim which is prohibited in
relation to alcoholic beverages.
The ECJ looked at the definition of health claim within the
"health claim" means any claim that states, suggests
or implies that a relationship exists between a food category, a
food or one of its constituents and health"
It was stated that the NHCR's definition of what constitutes
a health claim provides no information as to whether that
relationship must be direct or indirect, or as to its intensity or
duration. In those circumstances, the term 'relationship'
must be understood in a broad sense.
Therefore, the concept of a 'health claim' must cover
not only a relationship implying an improvement in health as a
result of the consumption of a food, but also any relationship
which implies the absence or reduction of effects that are adverse
or harmful to health and which would otherwise accompany or follow
such consumption, and, therefore, the mere preservation of a good
state of health despite that potentially harmful
EU law prohibits all 'health claims' in the labelling
and advertising of beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of
alcohol. The EU legislature has sought to protect the health of
consumers, whose consumption habits may be directly influenced by
The Court noted in particular that all claims in relation to
alcoholic beverages must be entirely unambiguous. Although the
claim in the current instance was factually correct; the wine was
less acidic and therefore more easily digestible than other wines,
it highlighted only that one aspect. However, regardless of a sound
digestion, the dangers inherent in the consumption of alcoholic
beverages were not in any way removed, or even limited. By
highlighting one aspect alone a claim could encourage increased
consumption by consumers. This was why there was a total
prohibition of the use of such positive health claims in the
labelling and advertising of alcoholic beverages to protect
A useful case that illustrates the ECJ taking a broad
interpretation of what constitutes a health claim and an extremely
restrictive view on any positive claims that can be affixed to
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