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CJEU: Citrus fruit labelling to indicate use of chemical substances used in post-harvest processing is compulsory

The Court confirms that citrus fruit labelling indicating the preserving agents and other chemical substances used in post-harvest processing is compulsory. 

The Court of Justice finds that the General Court did not err in dismissing the action brought by Spain

A provision of EU law on the marketing of citrus fruit (lemons, mandarins and oranges) 1 provides that the packaging of those fruits must bear a label indicating, where appropriate, the preserving agents or other chemical substances used in post-harvest processing.2 By adopting that provision, the Commission sought to ensure the correct application of EU legislation relating to food additives. To that end, it departed from a non-binding standard3 adopted by the UNECE4 under which the indication of the use of preserving agents or other chemical substances is required only if the legislation of the importing country requires it.

By a judgment of 20145 the General Court dismissed the action, brought by Spain, for annulment of that provision, holding that: (i) the Commission was not required to adopt, at EU level, a marketing standard for citrus fruit identical to that of the UNECE; (ii) the principle of equal treatment and non-discrimination had not been infringed since, as regards the objective of providing consumers with information concerning the substances used during post-harvest processing, citrus fruit producers are in a different situation to that of producers of other fruits and vegetables; (iii) the principle of proportionality had also not been infringed, given that, in perceiving the special labelling for citrus fruit, consumers will not come to the mistaken conclusion that fruits and vegetables without such labelling have not been treated with chemical substances; and (iv) the labelling relating to the possible post-harvest processing of citrus fruit was necessary in order to ensure adequate consumer protection, without it being acceptable to distinguish in that regard between consumers within the EU and those outside it.

Spain appealed to the Court of Justice to have the judgment of the General Court set aside. 

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