In mid-September, the European Court of Justice passed a landmark ruling on the use of botanical claims (Case C-363/19). The starting point was a legal dispute between the Swedish consumer representative and Mezina AB over the use of health claims that fall under the transitional regulation of Art. 28 of Regulation No. 1924/2006. The most important takeaways from this ruling are listed below:
- The food business operator must substantiate the health claims with objective, generally recognized scientific evidence
- Belief in a certain effect, folk wisdom, or observations/experiments by persons who are not scientists are not sufficient as evidence
- The need to provide so-called EFSA-compliant studies as evidence was not mentioned
- The required evidence is determined at the national level
- In case of discrepancies, the Health Claim Regulation takes precedence over national law
Although there will still be different national rules – with stricter regulations for Northern European countries – this ruling nevertheless provides more security for the use of botanical claims. In any case, it is strongly recommended to check the conditions of use carefully before using botanical claims and to have a scientific dossier read that underpins the statements made on the basis of the entirety of the scientific data.