German court bans “bekoemmlich” beer marketing health claims

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21 May 2018 --- A German court has ruled that beer can’t be described as “wholesome” or imply that drinking it is beneficial to health after a consumer rights group challenged a brewer which has been using a specific German term in its advertising since around 1900.

The German word “bekoemmlich” does not have a literal English translation but means something close to “wholesome” and implies healthy connotations as well as inferring tastiness.
 
Leutkirch- based Clemens Härle Brewery has been using the term in its beer advertising for more than a century, but after the recent case, the brewers have been banned from using “bekoemmlich” following the ruling at the German Federal Court of Justice.
 
The court upheld a lower court finding that the word cannot be used in adverts for beverages with more than 1.2 percent alcohol content, following the challenge by the Association of Social-Minded Competition (VSW) – a lobby group focused on advertising inaccuracies – which claimed that the term was misleading and didn’t comply with EU regulations governing alcohol advertising.
 
There was some debate about what the word means or how the public perceives it. Some understand it to mean “healthy,” “digestible” and even “beneficial,” and when it describes food, “bekoemmlich” can also be interpreted as easily absorbed.
 
A lower court in Stuttgart has previously said that the word was inaccurate because it creates an association of health benefits from beer, which led the German brewers to appeal against this at a higher court. The beer ruling comes a few years after a similar row raged over the use of the same word in alcohol labeling. Back in 2012, the EU Court of Justice banned a German wine cooperative from using the term on its “mild” range.

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