Who is entitled to food stamps

Federal Ministry of Justice and Consumer Protection

According to the Consumer Information Act, you are entitled to certain information about a product.

How did the fruit salad get from its production to the fresh produce counter in the supermarket? And what textiles was the new carpet made of? For consumers, production and delivery operations for food and other consumer products are often difficult to see. According to the Consumer Information Act (VIG), you therefore have the right to request information from certain authorities about the origin, properties, labeling or the manufacturing process of a product.

What can I request information about?

According to the VIG, you have the right to obtain information from the authorities about food, animal feed, consumer products such as clothing, cleaning agents, toys or household appliances, as well as technical products such as furniture and home improvement items.

Ms. Meier has ordered a new feed mixture for her dog. But after a few days she notices that the dog is behaving differently than usual; the dog lies around a lot, looks tired, battered and is losing fur. Ms. Meier studies the description on the packaging, but finds nothing that could explain her dog's symptoms. Nor does she get any information from the manufacturer of the feed that would help her.

Who do I have to address my application to?

To find out exactly which ingredients are contained in the dog food, Ms. Meier can contact the responsible food and feed control authority in her country. These - and also the trade supervisory offices of the federal states - are primarily responsible for consumer inquiries about food, feed and cosmetics.

In addition to the state authorities, the federal authorities are also responsible for inquiries about certain products. The most important are the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL), the Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR) and the Federal Institute for Occupational Safety and Health (BauA).

On the BVL website you will find an overview of the authorities responsible for food control and cosmetics.

What information must be disclosed?

Since the revision of the VIG 2012, official control results of the food control have to be published by the authorities for all measurements that concern limit values, maximum quantities or maximum contents.

Since the amendment, companies can no longer rely on trade or business secrets. Because: a so-called protection of secrets no longer applies if the public interest in the information about the product predominates.
If the manufacture or other properties of the product violate applicable law, the entire supply chain must even be disclosed.

Since the dioxin scandal in 2010, in which a manufacturer from Schleswig-Holstein enriched its laying hen feed with fats contaminated with dioxins, the authorities have been obliged to publish information on border crossings. Violations of hygiene regulations or deceptions have also had to be published since then.

What information does your application have to contain?

The application can be made in writing, but also informally by phone or email. It must contain information on:

  • Name and address of the applicant and
  • a concrete description of the information required (e.g. which product, name of the manufacturer, industry, etc.).

How do you get an answer from the authority?

Upon your request, the authority must provide you with the requested information. You can do this by inspecting files or in any other way, for example by providing you with the information you require orally, by telephone, in writing - or by fax or e-mail.

The authorities usually have up to a month to do this. This deadline is extended by a further month if a third party, for example a business enterprise concerned, has to be heard. The authority must inform you of the extension of the deadline. She can also hold the hearing at short notice, for example orally. Since the revision of the VIG 2012, the participation of third parties for information requests is to take place more quickly and efficiently. Information requests should also be processed faster, more extensively and more cheaply.

If the authority itself does not have the requested information, it must forward the request to the competent authority.

If the coveted information can also be obtained elsewhere, from generally accessible sources such as a product description on the Internet, the authority is entitled to reject your application. However, the rejection must contain a specific reference to the freely accessible sources.

There are also other reasons for the authority to reject your application. These are reasons of public concern. For example, if the disclosure of the information would affect the confidentiality of the advice given by authorities - or represent a significant risk to public safety. But the authority can also reject your request in the case of private matters, for example if personal data is requested or copyrights conflict with the claim.

What can you do if your application is denied?

If the authority rejects your application, you can lodge an objection to this rejection with the authority. If the authority does not remedy your objection, the next higher authority will decide on your concern.

Are there any costs associated with the application?

The basic rule is: for simple inquiries with administrative costs of up to € 250, the process is free of charge for you as a consumer. In the event of legal violations, this even applies up to an administrative expense of up to € 1,000. Beyond these limits, you only have to reimburse those costs that the authority actually incurred. Public interest inquiries can be further reduced. However, you do not have to worry about any unexpected costs. If the exemption limits are exceeded, the authorities must first provide you with a cost estimate.

Who is eligible to apply?

The application according to the VIG is a so-called everyone's right. This means: anyone can submit an application for information to the authorities - regardless of their nationality or place of residence. No particular interest is required for this.

Further information

Legal and Law

  • VIG
  • Consumer Information Act