The Netherlands will have to defend itself at the European Court of Justice against claims by the European Commission that it has been acting unlawfully by imposing tough restrictions on the sale of food containing particular additional nutrients, namely vitamins A and D and folic acid.

There is a general ban on these enriched products and food suppliers are forced by Dutch regulations to apply for special advance authorisation to sell individual lines. They have to demonstrate to the Netherlands authorities that these additives do not pose a health risk and that there is a “nutritional need” for them.

A Brussels statement said: “Several economic operators have submitted complaints to the Commission concerning the difficulty, even impossibility, of obtaining such an authorisation. The Commission believes that the current requirements of the authorisation procedure are disproportionate to the cited aim of health protection.”

It claimed that the regulations are incompatible with Article 28 of the Treaty of European Union on the freedom of movement of goods around the EU, since “a Member State cannot refuse to admit on its territory a food product lawfully manufactured and/or marketed in another Member State, unless it can prove that the product is a danger to human health.”

If the Commission’s case is backed by the ECJ, its judges have the authority to order the Dutch government to scrap the regulation.