The European Court of Justice (ECJ) has ruled that the French procedure for prior authorisation for the marketing of foodstuffs for human consumption enriched with nutrients, manufactured and marketed in the member states, hinders the free movement of goods.

France does not permit foodstuffs intended for human consumption to which have been added nutrients (such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other substances), except those which it has declared to be lawful by prior examination, to be placed on the market in that country.

Traders established in other EU member states which had encountered difficulties in obtaining authorisation to sell in France their products fortified with nutrients complained to the EU Commission, which brought an action before the ECJ in January 2000.

The ECJ deemed that France’s authorisation procedure was not readily accessible, and subject to unreasonable delay and that its appeals process was unclear.

It also noted that while it is for each member state to decide on its level of protection of public health, the national authorities must nonetheless confine themselves to means which are actually necessary to safeguard public health, in accordance with the principle of proportionality, and ensure that the alleged real risk for public health appears to be sufficiently established on the basis of the latest scientific data available at the date of the adoption of the decision to refuse inclusion on the list.

The ECJ ruled that France must not prohibit the marketing of confectionery and vitamin-enriched drinks, or of food supplements and dietary products containing L-tartrate and L-carnitine, on the sole ground that they would increase the usual intake from an already sufficiently varied diet and that there is no nutritional need for them.

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