The German food & beverage industry can still be regarded as fragmented and competitive. Food imports from other countries within the European Union fall under the "free movement of goods" principle. This means that products that are imported by other EU-countries may be brought into Germany even if they violate German food laws. If this is the case, importers must obtain a permit from the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) in order to sell the product in Germany. The duties to be paid for food brought from outside the European Union are subject to European legislation as well. The tariffs for different food products are published in TARIC, the Online Customs Tariff Database.
FOOD SAFETY - The legal framework on food safety was established by the European Union. The European Food Safety Authority plays a key role in the risk assessment of food. Many developments of the previous years were aimed to increase transparency and consumer confidence, by providing better information on food ingredients. Traceability of food products is also of utmost importance. For example, the country of origin must always be listed on food labels and all intermediaries (suppliers, distributors, etc.) that joined the food chain must be included as well. Companies trading food of animal origin from one country of the European Union to another need a special permit that is issued by the Federal Agency for Agriculture and Food (BLE).
NOVEL FOODS - Novel food imports in Germany must undergo a safety assessment before being brought into circulation. Importers of novel foods must apply for a license to sell these products at the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL). As the responsible federal authority, the BVL will perform the necessary testing and send the results to the European Commission and the Member States for final approval. Detailed guidelines for the import of novel foods can be found at the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).
FOOD LABELING - Food labeling requirements are laid down in EU legislation. This means that uniform standards apply throughout all Member States of the European Union. In December 2014, the new EU Regulation No. 1169/2011 on food entered into force. This directive requires that consumers are clearly informed about the nutritional value, ingredients, and instructions for use before they purchase a food product. In addition, the regulation improves the legibility of information on packages by imposing the highlighting of allergens and specifying a minimum font size.
PRODUCT PACKAGING - Exporting companies should be aware that product packaging is very important to German consumers since they are highly environmentally conscious. Manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers must make sure that their packaging materials for their food products comply with the EU's and Germany's domestic regulations in terms of recycling and disposal. There are several dual system companies licensed in Germany offering various waste disposal schemes. Foreign exporters are free to choose which dual system they join. It is not mandatory to display any dual system membership seal on sales packaging.
HEALTH CLAIMS – The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) maintains a register of all authorized health and nutrition claims, which applies across the entire European Union. This register is accessible online and any food business operator may use the claims contained therein for the purpose of their operations within Germany. However, the use of claims is subject to control by the competent German authorities (see above) and, where applicable, certain conditions and restrictions must be respected. One important provision is that health claims should only be used for the nutrient, substance, food or food category for which they have been authorized and not for any products containing them. In addition, food business operators should never make use of unauthorized claims.