Germany: Beer can no longer be described as "wholesome" in advertising

120-year old German brewery Brauerei Clemens Härle from Leutkirch im Allgäu lost in the last instance of appeal a case, forbidding the company to describe its beers as "wholesome" or “easily digestible” in advertising. The German Federal Supreme Court in Karlsruhe (BGH) ruled that the brewery’s advertisement falsely suggested the beer had health benefits.

A consumer rights group sued the brewery in 2015 and obtained an interim injunction against Härle, which said it used the term for its beers for decades. The brewery filed an objection and pursued the case through all instances. On Thursday the highest German court finally pronounced the final verdict.

The court upheld a lower court finding that the German word “bekömmlich”, which does not have a direct English translation but would be something akin to "wholesome" or “easily digestible”, could not be used in advertisement for beverages containing more than 1.2 percent alcohol. The term should be considered as a health claim that is not allowed under EU law for alcoholic beverages and that suggests that the beer has no negative consequences.

Gottfried Härle, managing partner of Härle in the fourth generation, who personally participated in the oral proceeding on Thursday said: "Already my great-grandfather called his beers wholesome," and he emphasized: "Enjoying beer in moderation is quite wholesome."

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