Say legal studio has three areas of expertise: food law, regulation of consumer goods and advertising law. In all these areas the main focus is on the product or service at hand.
The 7-step plan below shows how Say legal studio can assist your company in the seven phases of the ‘life cycle’ of your product.
You have a lot on your mind in the first phase of product development. Rules and regulations may not be one of your first thoughts. Question is: how to get from a very good idea to a compliant product? And how do you know what rules are applicable to your product? This step is particularly important in the case of foodstuffs, one of the most heavily regulated industries in the EU.
Say legal studio advises companies on food safety, the composition of the product and the choice for the right product category. Is the product a food supplement or an normal foodstuff? Which ingredients may be added to this product? Some product categories, such as special foods, or specific products such as beer or chocolate have a mandatory composition. These rules can be found, for example, in the Netherlands Commodities Act or follow from EU regulations.
Together with Say legal studio you will reduce the list of rules to a clear checklist.
With this next step in the process, the product really starts to live. The marketing department or an advertising agency has (or in the case of a start-up: you have) already been busy to find an appealing packaging and a catchy name. When designing the labelling, you also have to tick some mandatory boxes.
Questions that may come up: can you choose any brand name? When is it possible to claim that a product is ‘natural’ or ‘organic’? Also, don’t forget to include the mandatory disclaimers for food supplements, warnings and the check whether you can make nutrition or health claims. But above all: find out whether the packaging complies with the labelling requirements of the VIC Regulation (1169/2011/EC), such as the mandatory indication of allergens and nutritional values, and the special rules following from the Netherlands Commodities Act or special (EU) Regulations.
You may think that this is not the most interesting phase, as you would rather focus on other things. For Say legal studio it is. Say legal studio assists (international) companies in getting their packaging compliant and to identify any grey areas. This way you can confidently send the label to the printer.
The first (test) products have just been produced and it’s time to start selling. Undoubtedly you have thought about advertising and marketing. You may consider to promote the product via social media, and you might also want to use influencer marketing.
In this phase it is important to remember that advertising for food and non-food products (such as cosmetics) is also regulated. Examples are the rules applicable to claims in advertising or cosmetic products (anti age!) and health and nutrition claims for food.
Say legal studio advises on advertising rules, marketing (strategies), house styles, comparative advertising and e-commerce rules.
Growth requires cooperation, for example with customers or distributors. Say legal advises on (distribution) contracts and cooperation agreements. A small step across the border, especially within the EU, is often a logical consequence. Despite the fact that many (food) rules are harmonised and are therefore the rules should be the same in all EU countries, there are often differences in interpretation between official bodies in Member States.
Simply translating the label into another language will thus not be sufficient, despite the principle of the free movement of goods. Say legal specialises in Dutch law and the Dutch interpretation of EU rules. Where appropriate, Say legal makes use of the services of lawyers in other countries with the same areas of expertise.
Even if a product is already lawfully on the market in another Member State, but not yet in the Netherlands, Say legal is able to assist. Say legal specialises in (procedures concerning) the principle of mutual recognition, with the aim of getting the product on the Dutch market.
Despite all the efforts in the preparation phase, an incident occurs. The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (‘NVWA’) is on the doorstep for an inspection. The inspector finds an allleged violation of the applicable laws, for example regarding the composition of the product, (food) safety or a breach of advertising or labelling rules. With a warning, fine or even attachment of goods as a result. The NVWA may have a different interpretation of the laws than your company has.
Say legal studio gives advice: is it wise to challenge the fine or is it better to change the working method or labelling? Say legal studio assists in all phases of this process, from the response to the first warning to objection and appeal to the (higher) administrative court.
Say legal studio is also there for your company if things go terribly wrong: for example when you might have to start a recall. Acting quickly without hesitation is sometimes literally a matter of life and death in the event of a recall. Say legal studio has extensive experience with recall procedures, from contact with the NVWA to communication with internal departments and the PR agency.
Contact Say legal directly in case of a possible recall.
Not only the NVWA is supervising, but also competitors keep a close eye on each other. Say legal studio thinks along and advises when you receive a writ of summons, for example in the case of alleged misleading (comparative) advertising. Say legal studio also assists companies in proceedings before courts or courts of appeal.
In addition, consumers and consumer organisations are becoming increasingly active, while it is relatively easy to file a complaint with the Advertising Code Committee. Say legal studio writes the defence, clarifies the case on behalf of you during the hearing and, if necessary, files and handles the appeal. Always in close consultation with you, with a clear assessment of changes and risks.
Especially in the food industry, the work is never completely done. Rules and interpretations of the rules are constantly changing and it is the responsibility of the company to keep track of these developments and, where necessary, to adapt the composition, packaging or advertising. Say legal studio is happy to help in this phase too.
If desired, Say legal studio will keep track of changes in legislation for your product and Say legal studio will inform you of any relevant changes.