No natural pictures to depict artificial flavours, rules German court

No natural pictures to depict artificial flavours, rules German court

Manufacturers should be wary of using pictures to depict artificial flavourings, warn food lawyers as a German court ruling sets a new precedent for misleading marketing.


The product in question, Felix Raspberry and Vanilla Adventure, contained the claim ‘fruit tea with natural flavourings’ and pictures of vanilla orchids and raspberries on the packaging – but neither of these natural ingredients were raspberry or vanilla.

Instead the natural ingredients were hibiscus, apple, sweet blackberry leaves, orange peel and rosehip. The ingredient list also said 'natural flavouring with a taste of vanilla’ and ‘natural flavouring with a taste of raspberry’.

The complainant told Dusseldorf’s regional court that a consumer could reasonably expect the tea to contain vanilla and raspberry or at least natural vanilla or raspberry flavouring. Teekanne has been ordered to stop marketing the product in its current form.


The ruling is somewhat of a game changer for food companies. Previous case-law of the Court of Justice had allowed food manufacturers to understand that they were not guilty of misleading consumers whenever correct and complete information was provided on the ingredients list, said lawyer at Food Compliance International, Sebastián Romero Melchor.

But a factual ingredients list no longer provided such protection.

“Now [with the Teekanne ruling] the Court has made clear that including a compliant ingredient list does not rule out per se the misleading character of a label whenever other elements such as pictures are included,” Melchor told FoodNavigator.

He believed the ruling would make manufacturers more wary of using expressions such ‘chocolate / vanilla flavour’ with pictures of fruit or other ingredients to depict the product’s flavour – but added that the implications of the ruling were further reaching and would apply to all aspects of the label.

Think creatively

But did this ruling mean that food manufacturers would be deprived of the ability to market their products effectively – that they would not be allowed to show a picture of a lemon if the lemon flavour was artificial?

Not necessarily, said Melchor. Any ruling would conduct an overall examination of the various claims (and suggested claims) on a product’s label and would make a decision on a case-by-case basis.

“A mere picture of a lemon, without other potentially misleading elements may not be considered misleading per se. For more certainty manufacturers could also emphasise in the label that the flavour is artificial.”

In a statement in German, food labelling expert from consumer rights organisation FoodWatch, Lena Blanken, said: “We need stricter rules for an understandable food labelling, as deception and consumer deception are unfortunately the rule at the supermarket, and not the exception."

FoodWatch calls for a comprehensive flavours declaration, realistic product images, clear nutritional and origin information and more information on the use of genetically modified ingredients.

Food regulatory expert for Food Compliance International, Lara Skoblikov, said that under EU law  sanctions for such breaches took into account several factors – such as previous infringements – and so could vary from simple warnings to substantial fines. 

Related News

Citrus food flavouring is genotoxic, says EFSA

Citrus food flavouring is genotoxic, says EFSA

The authority was also asked to add ‘fresh’, ‘pure’, ‘original’, ‘authentic’, ‘real’, ‘genuine’ and ‘home-made' to its list

Irish artisans complain big brands ‘usurping’ their shelf space

While established food brands can depend on consumer loyalty up to a point they should beware of becoming complacent to negative feedback, says consultant Steve Osborn.

Private label trumps brands over negative feedback - but can brands afford to become complacent?

In March 2015, the World Health Organization (WHO) published revised guidelines on sugar intake [8], calling on national governments to institute policies to reduce sugar intake to less than 10% of total energy. ©iStock/lowkick

Sugar-free drinks no better for weight control, argue researchers

Defra’s Family Food Survey published in March, found sales of regular soft drinks fell by 34.6% between 2010 and 2014. Low-calorie drinks purchases increased by 35.8%. The survey stated that 38% of all soft drinks consumed were fully sugared, ©iStock

Artificial sweeteners raise stroke and dementia risk, study claims


Review casts doubt over artificial sweeteners’ intended weight benefits


Sweetener combos in food result in irrational metabolic response: Yale study

Symrise calls on nature for new flavours

Strong growth in natural flavours does not just mean success for natural alternatives to synthetic top notes and flavour systems, say experts.

Don’t forget herbs and spice: Natural flavour growth goes beyond high intensity flavours

Among other terms, FSAI has outlined a clear definition of 'natural' foods

FSAI cracks down on ‘misleading’ marketing terms

CAP changes rules for promotional marketing

CAP changes rules for promotional marketing

Comments (2)

Filippos Georgiades - 10 Jul 2015 | 09:18

misleading flavor

I believe the core of the decision derives exactyly from what Corrado Finardi comments above.

10-Jul-2015 at 09:18 GMT

Corrado Finardi - 29 Jun 2015 | 11:43

claim misleading not the image

The real problem here seems the claim-wording "natural flavoring": was there a natural flavor or an artificial one? This is the core of the reasoning. Regardless of the image and picture of lemon, if there was NATURAL FLAVOR, it would be difficult to persecute such ads. If it was ARTIFICIAL FLAVOR, this is a fraud- and again, no matter the picture. You are declaring a natural flavor when instead an artificial one is used.

29-Jun-2015 at 11:43 GMT

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.