27. Feb 17

OLG Karlsruhe: “Lightly salted” not permissible in advertising

Advertising for packet soup for children featuring the statement “mild gezalsen” (lightly salted) is contrary to the Health Claims Regulation and therefore unlawful. That was the verdict of the Oberlandesgericht (OLG) Karlsruhe [Higher Regional Court of Karlsruhe] (Az.: 4 U 218/15).

GRP Rainer Lawyers and Tax Advisors in Cologne, Berlin, Bonn, Düsseldorf, Frankfurt, Hamburg, Munich, Stuttgart and London conclude: Health claims on foodstuffs need to be consistent with the Health Claims Regulation. Advertising for packet soup for children featuring the statement “lightly salted” violates the Regulation and is accordingly unlawful. That was the verdict of the Oberlandesgericht Karlsruhe in its ruling of March 17, 2016.

A consumer protection group had objected to the printed statement “Mild gesalzen – voller Geschmack” (Lightly salted – Full of flavour) on the packaging of packet soup, claiming that the soups in question were by no means lightly salted but merely contained less salt than other packet soups. The consumer advocates viewed this as a violation of the European Regulation on Health Claims. While the request for an injunction was successful before the OLG Karlsruhe, the Court granted permission to appeal to the Bundesgerichtshof, Germany’s Federal Supreme Court.

According to the OLG Karlsruhe, the term “mild gesalzen” is a nutrition claim, and these kinds of claims should only be made if they are presented in an annex and are consistent with the Health Claims Regulation. The Court stated that claiming a foodstuff is low in sodium and salt, or any claims which give consumers a similar impression, is only permissible under the Regulation if the product does not contain more than 0.12 grams of sodium or the equivalent amount of salt per 100 grams / ml. However, the packet soups were said to exceed this threshold. The Court did not accept the objection that the salt content was significantly lower in comparison to other packet soups, ruling that it would have been necessary to highlight the quantifiable difference in salt content vis-à-vis comparable soups. In the absence of this mandatory information, the comparative statements were said to be incomprehensible to consumers.

Advertising can often prove to be a bit of a tightrope walk for businesses, particularly in relation to food products. Violations of competition law can result in formal written warnings, injunctions suits and damages claims. Lawyers who are versed in the field of competition law can assist businesses in fending off or enforcing claims arising from infringements of competition law.

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