As of September 7, 2005, the German Food Law ("Lebensmittel- und Bedarfsgegenstaendegesetz" - LMBG) has been replaced by the

Lebensmittel- und Futtermittel-Gesetzbuch (LFGB)
Law on Food and Feed.

Detailed Comments will follow in short term.

The German Food Law
("Lebensmittel- und Bedarfsgegenstaendegesetz" - LMBG)

The LMBG is the central basis of the German food legislation. It contains a set of fundamental facts and definitions as well as the necessary legal basis for a set of subordinate regulations laying down provisions on –for instance- maximum pesticide residue levels and additives.

You can access the current text of the LMBG in pdf format (2.9 MB!) from the server of the Bundesministerium für Verbraucherschutz, Ernaehrung und Landwirtschaft - BMVEL (Federal Ministry for Consumer Protection, Nutrition and Agriculture).

Articles 1 - 7 of the LMBG deal with basic definitions, which outline the scope of the law.

The following information provides greater detail:

Article 1 of the LMBG defines the term "food" and includes food coatings, as far as they are eaten along with the food.

Article 2 of the LMBG contains the definition of additives, expressly exempting flavouring materials and drinking water for which special regulations are in force.

Article 5 of the LMBG defines the term "object of use" (Bedarfsgegenstand), whereby this includes practically all substances and materials which are intended to come into contact with food or the human body. In particular, all packing materials are included, but also all technical devices that come into contact with these when producing or packing food.

Article 6 of the LMBG defines the "consumer" for the purposes of the law as those to whom food and objects of use are "delivered" for personal consumption. Commercial consumers are on an equal footing with consumers.

Article 7 of the LMBG contains the definition of "producing", "treating" and "marketing". In this connection it is important that not only sales, but also the offering and holding in stock are encompassed by the term "marketing".

Articles 8 - 17 lay down several legal authorizations for the issuing of subordinate regulations. This method increases flexibility and makes it possible to update extensive regulations at quite frequent intervals without passing the cumbersome procedure of formal legislation; as an example the regulation on maximum residue levels ( "Rueckstands-Hoechstmengenverordnung" - RHmV on the basis of authorization by article 14 of the LMBG) as well as the regulation on additives ( "Zusatzstoff-Zulassungsverordnung" - ZZulVO) on the basis of authorization in articles 11 - 12 of the LMBG can be mentioned here.

In addition, this section contains the two central prohibition rulings of the LMBG.

Article 8 of the LMBG is the central provision regulating prohibitions apart from article 17 of the LMBG. While article 17 of the LMBG prohibits the marketing of degraded or deceptively labelled food, article 8 of the LMBG refers to food definitely harmful to health. A violation of the latter provision can be pursued and punished as a criminal offence. At the same time, article 8 of the LMBG prohibits the marketing of objects and substances which, due to their external appearance, can be confused with food by consumers, in particular by children.

Article 17 of the LMBG prohibits marketing food that is substantially debased or not fit for consumption; this prohibition does not depend on a concrete hazard to health.

In addition, article 17 of the LMBG prohibits marketing food by using misleading specifications. Accordingly, false specifications concerning origin, net weight, shelf life etc., are prohibited. It is also considered deception to attach the term "unadulterated" (“naturrein”) or similar designations, if the food for instance has (even slight) pesticide residues.

Finally, article 17 of the LMBG also prohibits the use of health claims which have not been scientifically verified as well as false marketing under the guise of a medical or medicinal product.

Article 18 of the LMBG prohibits any reference to diseases in advertisements for food.

Articles 20 ff of the LMBG deal with tobacco products, cosmetics and other consumer articles.

Articles 40 - 50 of the LMBG regulate food monitoring and the approach to marketing across national boundaries.

Article 40a of the LMBG is new (effective 15.08.2002). This specifies that "food business operators", therefore all natural and legal persons, who are responsible for complying with the regulations of the food law in their enterprise, are subject to an obligation to inform the competent authority, if they have reason to assume that food marketed by them does not comply with regulations that protect the health of consumers. At the same time the authority is to be informed about the defensive and/or remedial actions taken.

Information from this "voluntary notification" may not be used to punish or prosecute the operator for regulatory offences.

But whoever deliberately or negligently does not inform the authorities in a timely manner in violation of article 40a of the LMBG, is in breach of the law and can be fined in accordance with article 53 paragraph 2 no. 1e of the LMBG.

Time will show whether this "obligation for voluntary notification" will gain relevance within the fresh fruit trade with its typical short turnover cycles.

Article 47a of the LMBG opens up a legal procedure to lay down pesticide MRLs by special decrees (“Allgemeinverfuegungen”), whenever a product is being imported from another EC member state where higher MRLs are tolerated.

On this website a search engine is available, which (in addition to the MRLs allowed by the RHmV) can also be used to research the special decrees relevant for fresh fruit and vegetables in accordance with § 47a of the LMBG.

In addition, the Ministerium für Ernährung, Landwirtschaft und Forsten (Ministry for Nutrition, Agriculture and Forests) of Lower Saxony runs an online register of article 47a special decrees issued since 1993. Specific searches can be done both by crop and by active substance. Unfortunately, this register seems to have become outdated for the past several months.

Finally, articles 50 - 54 of the LMBG contain the sanctions against violations of the law in the form of penal provisions and administrative fines.


Last update: August 11, 2004 - English translation by Aaron C. Todd