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Spreadable fats (dairy and non-dairy): Definition, labelling and sale


Spreadable fats undergo standard classification according to their fat content and whether they are of dairy/non-dairy origin, vegetable origin or animal origin.


Council Regulation (EC) No 2991/94 of 5 December 1994 laying down standards for spreadable fats.


As of 1 July 2008, products falling within the scope of this Regulation are governed by the common organisation of agricultural markets.

This Regulation protects consumers from the possibility of confusing butter, margarine and other spreadable fats (e.g. minarines), by differentiating them according to their percentage of fat content and their animal or vegetable origin.


Spreadable fats are products with a fat content of at least 10% but less than 90% by weight and which remain solid at a temperature of 20°C (complete definition in Article 1).


To avoid any possible confusion, the Regulation limits the use of the terms "butter" and "margarine" to products with a fat content of not less than 80%.

"Reduced fat" claims

Under the terms of the Regulation, the fact that the product has a reduced fat content must be mentioned clearly in the product designation. The Regulation therefore permits the use of nutritional claims which underline that the product has a reduced fat content. (Such claims consist of labelling, presentation and advertising information informing consumers about the characteristics of a food or of one of its ingredients.)

Sales and import descriptions

The various sales descriptions which are permitted, such as "minarine", "butter" and "cream" or the terms "vegetable" or "traditional" are defined in Articles 3 and 4.

Spreadable fats which are imported from non-Community countries are subject to the same requirements as those manufactured in the European Union (EU).


This Regulation expands on the former Directive 79/112/EEC, repealed by Directive 2000/13/EC, relating to the labelling, presentation and advertising of foodstuffs.


ActEntry into force - Date of expiryDeadline for transposition in the Member StatesOfficial Journal
Regulation (EC) No 2991/941.1.1996-OJ L 176 of 9.12.1994


Commission Regulation (EC) No 445/2007 of 23 April 2007 laying down certain detailed rules for the application of Council Regulation (EC) No 2991/94 laying down standards for spreadable fats and of Council Regulation (EEC) No 1898/87 on the protection of designations used in the marketing of milk and milk products (Codified version) [Official Journal L 106 of 24.4.2007].

Commission Decision 2004/336/EC of 31 March 2004 authorising the placing on the market of yellow fat spreads, milk based fruit drinks, yoghurt type products and cheese type products with added phytosterols/phytostanols as novel foods or novel food ingredients under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council [Official Journal L 105 of 14.4.2004].

Report from the Commission to the Council on the application of Article 5 of Council Regulation (EC) No 2991/94 laying down standards for spreadable fats [COM(2002) 411 final].
This report points out that it would be useful to maintain Article 5 of Regulation (EC) No 2991/94, which allows labelling claims regarding reduced fat content.

Commission Decision 2000/500/EC of 24 July 2000 on authorising the placing on the market of "yellow fat spreads with added phytosterol esters" as a novel food or novel food ingredient under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council [Official Journal L 200 of 8.8.2000].

Last updated: 07.03.2008
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