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Information such as vitamin A or vitamin D in the list of ingredients is sufficient

The European Court of Justice (ECJ) ruled in its judgment of March 24, 2022 - C-533/20 - that vitamins must be labeled as ingredients in the list of ingredients of a food if they are added to the food and are present in the finished product. Designations such as vitamin A or vitamin D are sufficient.


In Hungary, a margarine product with a fat content of 35% was marketed with added plant sterols. The list of ingredients included the statement "Vitamins (A, D)". The Hungarian government authority prohibited the sale of the margarine product. It was of the opinion that the vitamins as ingredients of the food had to be labeled in accordance with the regulations of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011 in connection with Regulation (EC) 1925/2006 with the vitamin compounds specifically used in the production. The vitamin compounds are listed in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No. 1925/2005. For vitamin A, these are, for example, "retinol", "retinyl acetate", "retinyl palmitate" and "beta-carotene". The company successfully sued against this in the first instance. The appealed court suspended the proceedings and referred the following questions to the ECJ for decision:

Is Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2021, in particular Article 18(2), to be interpreted as meaning that, in the case of the addition of vitamins to foods, the indication of the food ingredients must include, in addition to the name of the vitamins, the name of the vitamin compounds which may be added to foods?

Reasons for decision

The ECJ first clarified that vitamins may be ingredients within the meaning of Article 2(2)(f) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011. The question arose and had to be answered in advance because vitamins are defined as nutrients in Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011. They can be declared in the nutrient declaration of a food if they are contained in a significant amount in a food. There is no legal obligation to label them. The ECJ pointed out that this does not mean that vitamins cannot also be ingredients. If a vitamin is used in the manufacture or preparation of a foodstuff and is still present in the finished product, it must be labeled as an ingredient. However, a statement in the nutrition declaration was not mandatory.

With regard to the disputed question of how to label the vitamins used in the list of ingredients, the ECJ ruled that vitamins can be labeled with the name listed in Annex XIII Part A No. 1 of Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, i.e., for example, as "vitamin A" or "vitamin D."

According to Article 18(2) of Regulation (EC) No 1169/2011, ingredients contained in a foodstuff shall be designated with their specific name, where applicable, in accordance with the provisions of Article 17 of this Regulation. According to this, the ingredient shall be labeled by its legal name or, if there is no legal name, by its customary name, or, if there is no customary name or it is not used, by a descriptive name. The ECJ followed the Advocate General's reasoning that Annex II of Regulation (EC) No. 1925/2005 does not contain any legally prescribed names of vitamins. The purpose of Regulation (EC) No. 1925/2006 is not to provide nutritional labeling or general information about the presence of vitamins. In order to ensure easily understandable information for consumers and for reasons of consistency in the provisions in Regulation (EU) No. 1169/2011, vitamins that can be designated in the nutrition declaration with designations such as "vitamin A", "vitamin D" or "vitamin E" should therefore be labeled with the same wording in the list of ingredients.

Practical advice

The decision is relevant in practice because it first clarifies that nutrients such as vitamins can be ingredients. The list of ingredients provides information about the presence of these vitamins, while the nutrition declaration provides information about the specific vitamin content. The fact that the indications "vitamin A" or "vitamin D" correspond to the typical everyday designation of vitamins was not in dispute in the proceedings. In this respect, it is welcome that this easily understandable information about the presence of vitamins in a food can continue to be used.

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