Commission wins over Germany in garlic supplement ruling

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Garlic supplements, European union

The European Court of Justice's opinion to not allow Germany to
label garlic supplements as a medicine has been seen as a fine
example of the intended use principle winning out.

In 2005 the European Commission took Germany to court because it said the supplements were not a medicinal product, were a widely available foodstuff, and the sale of it should not be restricted. Had the court ruled in favor of Germany then the supplements would not be allowed to be sold in the country as a foodstuff. In every other Member State they are in fact regarded and regulated as food products and the ruling helps maintain a level playing field in the bloc, and opens the countries herbal market up, which has been valued at €1,522m (2006) by Euromonitor International. Germany's move also raised concerns that limiting garlic supplements as a medicine would restrict the principle of free movement of goods, and therefore hampering economic growth in the EU. The commission has said the case was a "clear cut" example of national overregulation creating unnecessary burdens for business. It argued that the intended use of garlic supplements was "not indicated or recommended for treating or preventing illnesses and, furthermore, it is not typically presented as a medicinal product."​ The court's opinion has also been heralded as a victory for the "intended use" principle, which means a product can be placed on the market only if they are fit for the intended use. A judgement has not yet been given by the court, and a spokesperson added that a date for this had not yet been set. Bert Schwitters from the International Nutrition Company said: "It shows that our hammering on the Intended Normal Use ("INU") principle is in line with EU policies and with ECJ case law. "INU is "in sync" with the policies and case law that aim at the free movement of goods within the entire internal market, without national restrictions. ​ "The recent national steps taken in some Member States (Germany, France and, a while ago, Belgium) to make that distinction on the basis of Therapeutic Dosage (on the basis of "Function") goes against EU Commission and ECJ thinking.​" Indeed, Shwitters is a co-author of an article published in Environmental Law and Management, which reinforces the importance of adhering to the intended use principle, which he says "can serve to regulate products and to organise and harmonise relevant markets."​ Last year Germany made the announcement that cinnamon dietary supplements in Germany carrying health claims to reduce blood sugar and help control type-2 diabetes should be classed as 'medicinal products'. This call was made by Medicinal Products and MedicalDevices (BfArM) and the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR)over concerns about differing coumarin levels in some products, said to cause liver damage and inflammation when higher doses are taken over a longer period by sensitive individuals, have spurred the institutes into action.

Related topics: Polyphenols

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