Beer is not beneficial, German court rules

FILE PHOTO: A visitor drinks beer during the opening day of the 184th Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo
FILE PHOTO: A waiter carries glasses of beer during the opening day of the 184th Oktoberfest in Munich, Germany, September 16, 2017. REUTERS/Michaela Rehle/File Photo

BERLIN (Reuters) - Beer cannot be marketed as beneficial, a German top court ruled on Thursday after a consumer rights group sued a brewery on the basis that its advertisement falsely suggested the beer had health benefits.

The standoff with the Haerle brewery in the southern German town of Leutkirch began when a Berlin consumer protection group protested at use of the German word "bekoemmlich", carries connotations of health as well as of tastiness.

The German Federal Court of Justice upheld a lower court finding that the word could not be used in advertisement for beverages containing more than 1.2 percent alcohol.

The German court said bekoemmlich, which does not have a direct English translation but would be something akin to "wholesome", described more than the taste of the beer.

"The term 'bekoemmlich' is understood by the relevant public to mean 'healthy', 'beneficial' and 'digestible'," the court said.

When used to describe food, it means that the product is easily absorbed and tolerated by the digestive system even alongside long-term consumption, the court said, adding that beer sometimes did cause health problems.

Once the world's largest beer consumer and famed for its annual Oktoberfest beer festival, Germany's consumption has dropped 17 percent since 1993, but brewers hope the soccer World Cup which starts next month could drive a return to growth.

The European Union's highest court ruled in 2012 that the same word could not be used to market wine.

(Reporting by Riham Alkousaa, editing by Thomas Escritt and Alison Williams)

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