Federal Court of Justice permits organic mineral water

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The manufacturer may call water "organic mineral water"

According to a recent ruling by the Federal Court of Justice (BGH) in Karlsruhe, manufacturers are allowed to sell mineral water products with the "Bio-Mineralwasser" label if the content of pollutants is significantly below the limit values ​​for natural mineral water. In doing so, the court dismissed a complaint by the headquarters to combat unfair competition, which accused the producer of misleading consumers and violating competition law.

A small manufacturer in Neumarkt offers a range of water called "Bio Kristall". The private interest group "Competition Center", behind which, among other things the Association of German Mineral Wells is misleading consumers. After all, natural mineral water is a natural product anyway and therefore without additives, according to the competition headquarters.

The legal tug of war between the opponents ran for three years. "Now the judgment creates legal certainty in Germany," wrote the company "Neumarkter Lammsbräu" in a message. "Mineral water products that meet the special and precisely defined quality criteria of the Quality Association for Biomineral Water e.V. may be labeled as organic mineral water and brought to the market". Thus, the defendant company can continue to sell its organic mineral water "Bio-Kristall".

Organic name for mineral water permitted The BGH thereby confirmed the reasoning of the judgment of the Higher Regional Court of Nuremberg-Fürth. This had declared the term “organic mineral water” to be permissible because “the manufacturer was thus serving the interests of the consumer”. However, the manufacturer must comply with the requirement to design the label used in such a way that confusion with the official EU organic label does not happen for the consumer. The company has been meeting the requirement since February of this year.

Susanne Horn, company spokeswoman, welcomed the verdict. The BGH supports "the legitimate interests of consumers for more transparency in the food market. It also shows that our objective of introducing organic criteria for mineral water is right, after all, water is our most important food."

The “Biomineralwasser e.V.” community had already worked out around 50 quality criteria in 2009 that mineral water must meet in order to be called “organic”. According to the initiative, these are "stricter than the current regulations for mineral water and spring water".

In the opinion of the competition center, the term "organic" for mineral water suggests that the water has special properties compared to conventional natural mineral water, which are much healthier and purer. However, this is not the case, according to the competition center, because conventional waters also comply with strict legal requirements and are therefore free of additives and health-threatening ingredients. "The consequence of the BGH ruling will be that other suppliers can also adorn themselves with the seal of an alleged organic quality if they only make the criteria that match their products to the organic standard, regardless of the extent to which there are really noticeable differences from conventional competing products have it determined. Ultimately, that means organic marketing without neutral control, ”criticized Dr. Reiner Münker, board member of the competition center.

Münke hopes that the BGH will also show limits for the organic marketing of mineral waters in its reasoning, in order to protect consumers from "charlatanism". In order to be able to estimate this, one still has to wait for the written decision-making process. Münke was pleased that the "BGH has confirmed the previously pronounced ban on the misleading organic seal".

Horn, however, sees the judgment as an important milestone for the organic sector. “On the one hand, it shows the growing acceptance of organic criteria for food. On the other hand, it is an incentive to continue to establish organic certifications for food outside the EU standard with strict regulations. And it confirms the right of organic associations to extend honest organic concepts to other foods and food areas. ”(Sb)

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