The World Trade Organisation (WTO) has ruled that the nature of the European norms for the trade name of sardines is illegal according to the Trade Barrier Agreement.

The appeal court that was dealing with the case noted that the EU did not comply with Codex Stan 94, one of the international standards fixed by the Codex Alimentarius, when making its Community regulation (EEC No.2136 of 1989). The EU had argued that Stan 94 is only approved by a small number of countries and is currently under review. Furthermore, the Community regulation in question is already five years old.

The EU particularly disapproved of the fact that the WTO would not take into account consumers' expectations of what sardines are. The EU argued that consumers would be confused and misled if other types of sardines other than the common "sardine pilchardus" were sold under the generic name "sardine".