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Agriculture: "Pomazánkové máslo" – Commission refers the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice

Commission Européenne - IP/10/1224   30/09/2010

Autres langues disponibles: FR DE CS

IP/10/1224

Brussels, 30 September 2010

Agriculture: "Pomazánkové máslo" – Commission refers the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice

The European Commission has decided to refer the Czech Republic to the Court of Justice for failure to amend its dairy product legislation. The Commission considers that the Czech dairy product's sales designation "Pomazánkové máslo" (EN butter spread) has to be changed since the product's milk-fat content does not meet the requirements set out in EU legislation to be called butter (“máslo” in Czech). This decision follows the reasoned opinion sent on 29 October 2009.

In order to assure the functioning of the single market, to avoid unfair competition between butter, margarine and other fats and to avoid confusion in the mind of the consumer, Council Regulation (EC) No 1234/2007 (Single Common Market Organisation (CMO) Regulation) provides standards for spreadable fats such as butter, margarine and blends. The Regulation reserves the sales designation "butter" for products containing not less than 80% milk-fat content. This minimum is also valid in international standards like the "Codex Alimentarius" and the Customs Nomenclature. If the fat content is lower, the product can still be produced but under the sales designation "dairy spread". Derogations to this rule can only be granted for products for which "the designation of the product and the nature is clear from traditional usage and/or when the designations are clearly used to describe a characteristic quality of the products". When granting derogations for the use of the designation "butter", the Commission has to take into account both the risk of confusion for the consumer and the risk of unfair competition. For product of less than 39% milk-fat content, the Single CMO Regulation reserves the sales designation to a "dairy spread".

Infringement proceedings have been initiated against Czech Republic because of the Czech dairy product legislation, which provides for a sales designation "Pomazánkové máslo" for a butter-like dairy product with a milk-fat content of at least 31%. The Commission has previously informed the Czech Republic that the use of the sales designation " Pomazánkové máslo" for a diary product of less than 80% milk-fat content constitutes infringement of EU legislation and, accordingly, asked the Czech Republic to amend the legislation in question. The Czech Republic insisted that the derogation should be granted to "Pomazánkové máslo" and, therefore, refused to amend the relevant legislation maintaining the designation "Pomazánkové máslo". In the past, the Commission refused several times to grant the derogation to the Czech Republic for the use the designation "Pomazánkové máslo" since it does not fulfil the necessary criteria foreseen in EU legislation for such derogation.

Products containing less than 80% fat and, consequently, more water than in a butter produced in compliance with EU legislation, compete with this latter product on the market. The higher water content offers economic advantages for the producer of these products. This leads to unfair competition. The use of designation in question might also confuse consumers in various Member States. "Maslo" means butter not only in Czech, but also in Polish, Slovak, Slovenian and Bulgarian.

In order to comply with the EU legislation, the Czech Republic should use appropriate designation established in Single CMO Regulation, such as "dairy spread" or the fat content has to be adjusted to the levels required for the butter.

For further information on infringement procedures, see IP/10/670

MEMO/10/457


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