The European Court of Justice has ruled that alga Lithothamnium calcareum cannot be used in the production of food labeled as organic for the purposes of adding calcium. Natumi GmbH v. Land Nordrhein-Westfalen, No. C‑815/19 (E.C.J., entered April 29, 2021). Natumi GmbH manufactured a drink labeled as organic that is marketed as calcium-rich because of its red algae content, but the German state North Rhine-Westfalia imposed a fine on the company for adding non-edible algae to its products.

“Natumi acknowledges that, since the use of calcium carbonate is prohibited for the calcium enrichment of organic products, many producers of soya-, rice- and cereal-based organic drinks add the Lithothamnium calcareum alga to them because it is naturally high in calcium. In addition, Natumi argues that that alga is a natural alternative to calcium and that its use for enriching organic food should be permitted,” the court found. However, it stated, allowing the addition of the algae would “amount to permitting producers of those foodstuffs to circumvent the prohibition” on “the addition of calcium in the processing of organic foodstuffs [] for the purpose of their enrichment with calcium.”

“Such an interpretation would, therefore, have the effect of rendering ineffective the strict rules relating to the addition of products and substances such as minerals in the production of organic food laid down by the legislation at issue in the main proceedings and would run counter to the objectives pursued by that legislation,” the court held, accordingly upholding the German high court’s ruling that the algae cannot be added to the company’s products and continue to be labeled organic.

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