Denominaciones como ‘nata’, ‘mantequilla’, ‘queso’ o ‘yogur’ están reservadas a los productos de origen animal.
Denominaciones como ‘leche de soja’, ‘mantequilla de tofu’ o ‘queso vegetal’ tendrán que desaparecer por completo de los supermercados y tiendas bio de toda la Unión Europea. El Tribunal de Justicia de Luxemburgo (TJUE) ha dictaminado este miércoles que los productos puramente vegetales, como la soja o el tofu, no pueden comercializarse como ‘leche’, ‘nata’, ‘mantequilla’, ‘queso’ o ‘yogur’. Estos nombres están reservados, según las reglas de la UE, para productos de origen animal.
La sentencia responde a un litigio que enfrentaba a la empresa alemana TofuTown con una asociación también alemana de defensa de la competencia. TofuTown elabora y distribuye alimentos vegetarianos y veganos y los promociona con las denominaciones ‘mantequilla de tofu Soyatoo’, ‘queso vegetal’, ‘veggie-cheese‘, ‘cream‘ y otros nombres similares. La compañía fue denunciada por infringir la normativa de la UE sobre las denominaciones de la leche y los productos lácteos.
En su defensa, TofuTown alegaba que su publicidad no contraviene las reglas de la UE. A su entender, la forma en que el consumidor comprende estas denominaciones ha cambiado mucho en los últimos años. Además, sostiene que nunca usa estos nombres de manera aislada, sino que siempre los relaciona con términos que hacen alusión al origen vegetal de los productos en cuestión, como por ejemplo ‘mantequilla de tofu’ o ‘rice spray cream’.
RIESGO DE CONFUSIÓN
En su fallo de este miércoles, el Tribunal de Justicia de la UE desestima todos los argumentos de TofuTown. La sentencia señala que, a efectos de la comercialización y la publicidad, la normativa comunitaria “reserva en principio exclusivamente la denominación ‘leche’ a la leche de origen animal”. Lo mismo ocurre con nombres como ‘nata’, ‘chantilly’, ‘mantequilla’, ‘queso’ y ‘yogur’, que sólo pueden utilizarse para productos lácteos, es decir, derivados de la leche.
“Las denominaciones enumeradas no pueden ser utilizadas legalmente para designar un producto puramente vegetal, salvo que ese producto aparezca en la lista de excepciones, cosa que no ocurre ni con la soja ni con el tofu”, resalta el fallo. La utilización de menciones que indiquen el origen vegetal del producto en cuestión, como hace TofuTown, “no tiene influencia alguna en esta prohibición” ya que no evitan con certeza el “riesgo de confusión por parte del consumidor”.
“Si no se previese esa limitación, estas denominaciones no permitirían identificar con certeza los productos que poseen las características particulares relacionadas con la composición natural de la leche animal, lo que menoscabaría la protección de los intereses de los consumidores, debido al riesgo de confusión creado”, alega el TJUE.
“Se vería también menoscabado el objetivo de mejora de las condiciones económicas de producción y de comercialización, así como la calidad de la leche y los productos lácteos”, concluye la sentencia.
| BEIJING/NEW YORK
Anbang Insurance Group, one of China’s most aggressive buyers of overseas assets, said on Wednesday its chairman was temporarily unable to fulfil his duties, just over a week after denying reports he had been barred from leaving the country.
The brief statement, citing only unspecified personal reasons for moving Wu Xiaohui aside, came hours after Chinese magazine Caijing reported the chairman had been taken away for investigation. The article, citing unnamed sources, was removed shortly after it was posted online.
Anbang said Wu’s duties would be managed by other senior executives, and that its business was operating normally. No other details were provided.
Best known overseas for its 2015 purchase of New York’s landmark Waldorf Astoria hotel, Beijing-based Anbang has pursued a string of high-profile foreign acquisitions under Wu.
After a spate of successful deal-making worth over $30 billion, Anbang ran into recent roadblocks, failing to close on a handful of investments, and facing criticism over its opaque shareholding structure.
Anbang’s vertiginous rise has also brought unwanted attention.
One of Anbang’s units was censured by China’s insurance regulator in May for designing products to skirt a regulation aimed at curtailing risk. As a result, the unit was barred from issuing new products for three months.
That move came amid a widespread regulatory crackdown on what was seen as excessive use of universal life products by some insurers, and as China’s leadership moves to curb risk in the financial system.
A handful of insurers, led by Anbang, have issued higher-yielding products to raise funds to acquire stakes in listed companies.
Earlier this year, the country’s chief insurance regulator, who had overseen a doubling of the size of the industry in three years, was removed from his post after being placed under investigation.
Outside of China, Anbang’s deal-making has faltered as well. Its planned $1.6 billion takeover of U.S. annuities and life insurer Fidelity & Guaranty Life (FGL.N) collapsed in April after failing to get the required U.S. regulatory approval.
Attempts by the Chinese insurer to invest in a real estate project affiliated with the family of U.S. President Donald Trump’s son-in-law floundered earlier this year.
When asked if Wu was within China or if he could be reached, a spokesperson for Anbang – which employs more than 30,000 people and manages 1.97 trillion yuan ($290 billion) in assets – said the company had nothing to add.
Anbang earlier this month denied a Financial Times report that Wu had been prevented from leaving the country, citing four sources who had business dealings with him.
That statement fuelled speculation about Wu’s well-being, at a time when Chinese business circles were already spooked by the mysterious disappearance of a China-born billionaire from Hong Kong early this year.
Calls to Wu’s mobile phone went unanswered on Wednesday.
China’s insurance regulator did not immediately respond to a faxed request for comment or phone calls.
RISE TO PROMINENCE
Anbang’s recent difficulties come during a highly sensitive year in China, with the ruling Communist Party set to hold its five-yearly party congress later this year, and amid a broader crackdown on corruption led by President Xi Jinping.
Established in 2004 by Wu as an automotive and property insurer, Anbang has stormed to prominence in recent years, buying Dutch insurer Vivat, South Korea’s Tong Yang Life Insurance and Strategic Hotels & Resorts in the United States.
It has also taken significant stakes in a handful of listed domestic banks and property firms, including China Mingsheng Banking Corp (600016.SS) (1988.HK), Agricultural Bank of China 601288.HK (1288.HK) and China Vanke (000002.SZ).
Anbang also became embroiled in an unusually public war of words with a leading Chinese business magazine, Caixin, about the insurer’s ownership structure.
In an article published in April, the magazine had described Anbang’s structure as “opaque” and said its funding was a “maze” of capital flow involving more than 100 firms. Anbang, in response, called the descriptions “malicious” and “inaccurate” and later said it filed a lawsuit in Canada against the author of the article.
Described by those who know him as smart and passionate, Wu is politically connected – he married the grand-daughter of former leader Deng Xiaoping – and has cultivated relationships on Wall Street with the likes of private equity giant Blackstone Group LP (BX.N), despite speaking little English.
($1 = 6.7964 Chinese yuan renminbi)
(Additional reporting by Engen Tham in Shanghai; Editing by Tony Munroe and Lincoln Feast)
The US attorney general has denied allegations he was aware of links between Russia and the Trump campaign in a Senate hearing. He also said he recommended a “fresh start” at the FBI when asked about the firing of Comey.
In closely watched testimony before the Senate Intelligence Committee on Tuesday, US Attorney General Jeff Sessions strongly denied the suggestion he colluded with Russian officials during the campaign to swing the election in US President Donald Trump‘s favor.
“The suggestion that I participated in any collusion, that I was aware of any collusion with the Russian government to hurt this country … or to undermine the integrity of our democratic process, is an appalling and detestable lie,” Sessions said.
Sessions said his decision to recuse himself from all ongoing Russia investigations was based on a regulation that required him to step aside due to his involvement in the Trump campaign. He insisted that he didn’t know about the Russia probe or was involved in the investigation.
Sessions also defended himself against accusations that he misrepresented himself by saying during his confirmation hearing that he had not met with Russian officials during the campaign.
The attorney general did not actually step aside from the Russia probe until March 2, one day after The Washington Post reported on his two previously undisclosed meetings with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak.
Grilling over Comey firing
Sessions also fielded several questions over his role in the firing of James Comey. The former FBI director said in his testimony last week that US President Donald Trump sacked him as part of a bid to influence the Russia investigation.
The nation’s top law enforcement official said he had recommended a “fresh start” for the FBI, but wouldn’t provide any details about his conversation with Trump concerning the matter.
He also refused to say whether he discussed the Russia investigation with Trump, saying he couldn’t disclose private conversations with the president.
During last week’s testimony, Comey suggested that there was something “problematic” about Sessions’ recusal from the Russia probe. When asked what problematic issues existed, Sessions became visibly incensed.
“Why don’t you tell me? There are none,” Sessions insisted, his voice rising. “This is a secret innuendo being leaked out there about me, and I don’t appreciate it.”
Asked about Trump’s contention that he had fired Comey with the Russia probe in mind and regardless of recommendations from anyone else, Sessions said: “I guess I’ll just have to let his words speak for themselves. I’m not sure what was in his mind specifically.”
“Many have suggested that my recusal is because I felt I was a subject of the investigation myself, that I may have done something wrong,” Sessions added. “But this is the reason I recused myself. I felt I was required to under the rules of the Department of Justice.”
“I did not recuse myself from defending my honor against scurrilous and false allegations,” he added.
Tuesday’s hearing was Sessions’ first public testimony since being confirmed as attorney general in February, and comes amid several open investigations into possible collusion between the Trump campaign and Russian officials.
rs,jh/rt (AP, AFP, dpa, Reuters)