Eataly fined €50k for misleading wine labels

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The labels led consumers to believe the wine was sulphite-free. Photo: Alberto Pizzoli/AFP
07:00 CEST+02:00
Italian food supermarket, Eataly, has been slapped with a €50,000 fine after Italy's antitrust association (AGCM) ruled it had misled consumers over wines containing sulfates.

Between April 2014 and January 2016 the food supermarket, which is renowned for its high-end Italian food and drink, sold wines which were marked with an ambiguous sticker marking them as 'vino libero.'

'Vino libero' (literally translating as 'free wine) stickers were used on wines free from chemical fertilizers, herbicides and pesticides.

But the wines in question were not free from sulphites, chemical compounds of sulphur and oxygen, which are used as preservatives in wine-making.

A fact which Italian consumer rights organization, Codacons, said took advantage of shoppers when it brought the case to the attention of the antitrust organization last year.

Although the wines sold as 'free' did contain a reduced level of sulphites (at least forty percent lower than the maximum level set by the EU), the AGCM ruled the stickers were "highly misleading".

“The labels cause customers to assume embellished bottles are completely free from sulphites,” they said in their ruling.

In addition to hitting the posh supermarket with a fine, they also ordered that the labels be changed to include the caveat “contains at least forty percent less sulphites than the legal limit.”

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The use of sulphites in wine-making has come under fire in recent years, with health associations saying the compounds can cause allergic reactions and wine buffs arguing they stop good wines from maturing properly.

As a result a flourishing market has sprung up around sulphite-free wines as customers are willing to pay more for wines made without the preservatives.

Since first opening its doors in 2007, Eataly has risen to become the world's largest Italian food supermarket, and was named by Forbes as one of the most 'disruptive brands' of 2015.

The chain now has international stores in Seoul, New York,Tokyo and Istanbul with further openings planned for London, Hong Kong, Paris, Mexico City and Moscow. 

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