Paolo Vergano and Ignacio Carreño publish article on negative claims in the EU
In the article Uses and Potential Abuses of “Negative Claims” in the EU: The Urgent Need for Better Regulation, published in Issue 4/2014 of the European Journal of Risk Regulation, Ignacio Carreño and Paolo Vergano provide the first legal analysis of the use of negative labelling on food products. This form of voluntary information scheme typically suggests that a given product is free from a specific ingredient or substance, and thus marketed as of superior value. The message conveyed might suggest an association between the use of that ingredient and a food safety concern (e.g., GMO or BPA-free), a nutritional (e.g., palm oil) or environmental/sustainability concern. However, due to the absence of a specific EU legislation addressing the use of negative labelling, these claims are susceptible to give rise to abusive practices, which might mislead the consumer. While the ‘informative’ nature of these labelling schemes merely nudges consumers towards the consumption of these products, it also differentiates them from their competitors, thus demonising their ingredients or production processes. The article argues that EU and EU Member States’ legislators and regulators should ensure that consumers are not misled by astute marketing techniques that have no informative agendas, but simply aim at denigrating certain products in order to promote “free-from” products. This issue is particularly timely and important given the imminent application of the EU’s Food Information Regulation and the additional costs that it will impose on the industry in the name of providing complete, reliable and evidence-based information to consumers.