Ban on dual food quality and other novelties in sales regulation
Effective 12 May 2021, the amendment to the Food and Tobacco Products Act responds to legislative changes at the EU level. In particular, it prohibits the marketing of dual-quality food and introduces stricter traceability of tobacco products. It also newly regulates the marketing and sale of so far not regulated tobacco-free nicotine pouches and explicitly classifies edible insects and products derived therefrom as food of animal origin. The introduction of quotas for a mandatory share of Czech-sourced groceries on the shelves of shops did not make it into the amendment.
Prohibition of marketing dual-quality food
The amendment responds to the long-debated topic of dual food quality by prohibiting the marketing of food seemingly identical to that marketed in other EU member states, where the food marketed in the Czech Republic has significantly different composition or characteristics. Exceptions are allowed where differences are justified by reasonable and objective facts, and at the same time the food is marked with easy to access and sufficient information on the different composition or characteristics.
Stricter traceability of tobacco products
The amendment also tightens the rules for the traceability of tobacco products: retailers will now be obliged (as has been the case for manufacturers, importers and distributors) to keep records of any handling of units (individual packages) of tobacco products, from their receipt, through their internal movements, to their dispatching. A consolation for retailers is that they will not have to fulfil these duties at the place of the 'final' retail sale: for example, a retailer (a head office) will have to record the receipt of tobacco products and their subsequent dispatch to its individual establishments (outlets) where the tobacco product is physically handed over to the end consumer.
Tobacco-free nicotine pouches
Nicotine pouches are tobacco-free products for oral use that contain nicotine and are widely used by minors. They are an alternative to ‘snus’, a tobacco intended for oral use (often also in the form of pouches) which is popular especially in Sweden and whose marketing is prohibited in most EU countries, including the Czech Republic. The main difference is that tobacco-free nicotine pouches have not been so restricted yet.
Under the amendment, the manufacturer, importer, retailer and distributor of nicotine pouches will be obliged to ensure that these products meet the requirements for the composition, appearance, quality and characteristics stipulated by the Decree of the Ministry of Health, under similar conditions as those for e-cigarettes. Furthermore, the mentioned entities will have to inform the ministry, on a regular basis, on the nicotine pouches that they intend to launch on the EU/EEA market or import, and will have to collect information on the suspected adverse effects of these products on human health.
Tobacco-free nicotine pouches that do not comply with the amendment and that were produced or marketed before 12 May 2021 will only be allowed to be sold until the end of 2021.
The amendment responds to the fact that insect food is beginning to enter the EU market. It is currently not regulated at a national level and the competent authorities lack the power to control them. The amendment thus explicitly classifies edible insects and products from them as food of animal origin, and grants the State Veterinary Administration the authority to check the compliance with the law when marketing them or carrying out other activities involving them.
Finally, it should be noted that the original draft amendment also stipulated a mandatory share of Czech food on the shelves of shops (quotas): from 2028, Czech food was to account for as much as 73% of the goods in stores of 400 m2 or more. Due to widespread criticism, conflict with EU law, and the related threats of legal action by the European Commission, mandatory quotas were left out of the amendment upon the Senate’s proposal.