Gluten-free panettone? The lawyer Dario Dongo responds

Dear Dario,

I present to you the case of a product based on proteins (egg white, egg yolk, milk proteins), high oleic sunflower oil, fibre, sweeteners, marketed with a brand that contains the word panettone, and is gluten-free. Furthermore, the food is also suitable for consumption by diabetic people, thanks to the absence of sugar and carbohydrates, and is free of lactose, as well as yeast.

Many thanks, Francesco

The lawyer Dario Dongo, PhD in European food law, answers

Dear Francis,

the case in question presents several aspects worthy of further investigation.

1) Trademarks and labeling

Food Information Regulation (EU) No 1169/11 extended the scope of the previous legislation Food Labeling Directive 2000/13/EC to every area of ​​commercial communication relating to food. Also specifying, as already in Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No 1924/06, that the regulation also applies to registered trademarks and trade names.

'Labeling' means any words, particulars, trade marks, brand name, pictorial matter or symbol relating to a food and placed on any packaging, document, notice, label, ring or collar accompanying or referring to such food' (EU Reg. 1169/11, article 2.2.j).

2) Panettone

The ministerial decree of 2 July 2005, updated to 19 June 2017 - containing 'Discipline of the production and sale of certain baked confectionery products' - introduced, as we have seen, a series of legal names relating to some foods of the Italian confectionery tradition. (1)

The use of names 'panettone', 'pandoro', 'colomba', 'amaretti, 'savoiardi' is therefore bound to compliance with actual specifications which consider mandatory and optional ingredients, manufacturing processes and characteristics of the finished products.

3) Gluten-free panettone

An exception was then introduced to allow the use of the aforementioned names also for confectionery products in the aforementioned categories'specifically formulated for people intolerant to gluten', in compliance with the provisions of the reg. (EU) 828/14 (DM 19.6.17, article 8-bis).

The condition However, this exception includes the exclusive use of only ‘technologically necessary ingredients' to replace those 'gluten contributors'. Although this step is not very clear, it can be understood that the substitution of ingredients other than those that contain gluten is not permitted.

4) 'Foods for Specific Groups' and commonly used foods

The food in question appears specifically formulated for celiac patients, with the further peculiarity of being able to also be consumed by those vulnerable sections of the population where gluten intolerance coincides with lactose intolerance and other pathologies (i.e. diabetes, yeast allergies). As well as by those who follow the ketogenic diet. (3)

Foods of this type can be registered as 'Food for specific groups', upon the occurrence of the conditions established in Regulation (EU) 609/13, also in view of their refundability to those entitled. That is, to be marketed as commonly used foods, with attention to both food additives and permitted 'nutrition and health' claims.

5) Provisional conclusions

The use of a trademark which contains the word 'panettone' on a product which contains different ingredients and in different proportions with respect to the conditions established in the aforementioned decrees - beyond the mere replacement of flours with deglutinated flours - does not appear consistent, in general terms, with the objectives of reserve this denomination for panettone made in compliance with the Italian confectionery tradition, as codified in Ministerial Decrees 2.7.05 and 19.6.17.




(1) Panettone with extra virgin olive oil? The lawyer Dario Dongo answers. DO (Food and Agriculture Requirements).

(2) Dario Dongo. Gluten-free foods and the Spiga Barrata brand. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

(3) Adele Fantoni. Keto diet and very low carb diet, the ABC. GIFT (Great Italian Food Trade).

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