Food law; information on administrative offences and criminal proceedings

Compliance with food law can be achieved by means of orders and prohibitions issued by the food control authorities or by imposing fines and penalties.


The aim of food law is above all to protect consumers from damage to their health. Numerous prohibitions and requirements are intended to protect citizens from health hazards caused by the consumption of food.

Food law includes all legal norms concerning the extraction, production, composition, nature and quality of foodstuffs and their designation, presentation, packaging and labelling. The implementation and monitoring of the regulations on cosmetic products and consumer goods is also the task of food monitoring. Tobacco products are no longer subject to food law. A separate legal area has been created for them. In addition to the protection of human health, the aim of food law is to protect the general public from deception and misleading information.

Within the framework of the German Food and Feed Code (LFGB) and the Tobacco Products Act (Tabakerzeugnisgesetz), the Tobacco Products Act and food law are structured as ancillary criminal law and violations are subject to fines and criminal sanctions (§§ 58 ff LFGB and §§ 34 ff Tobacco Products Act). Further penalties and fines are contained in the Food Law Penalty and Fine Ordinance. A distinction must be made between the punishment of an infringement as an administrative offence and the punishment as a criminal offence. A criminal offence is an unlawful and culpable act or omission in accordance with the facts, to which the law attaches a threat of punishment. For example, it is a criminal offence if someone manufactures or treats food in such a way that its consumption is likely to harm health, or if someone places substances that are likely to harm human health on the market as cosmetic products.

The courts may impose prison sentences of up to three years or fines and, in particularly serious cases, prison sentences of up to five years for established violations of food law. In addition, convictions under general criminal law are also possible, e.g. for bodily injury or fraud.

Not all violations of food law require criminal punishment. In the vast majority of cases, only warnings are issued or penalty notices are issued in practice. Fines are issued for administrative offences. A misdemeanour is an unlawful and reproachable act that constitutes an offence under a law that allows it to be punished with a fine. For example, it is an administrative offence to negligently advertise foodstuffs in relation to illness. The administrative authorities are responsible for the prosecution and punishment of administrative offences, i.e. the fine proceedings are usually initiated by the district administrative authorities or the Bavarian Food Safety and Veterinary Control Authority. They also issue any warnings.


Administrative court proceedings; information

administrative claim

Status: 30.06.2021

Responsible for editing: Bayerisches Staatsministerium für Umwelt und Verbraucherschutz

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