Cannabis as an ingredient in food or supplements

Food supplements that contain the active ingredient cannabidiol (CBD) are marketed in the Netherlands. Supplements containing delta-9-tetrahydrocannabinol (THC) are not available in the Netherlands.

These supplements are considered herbal supplements. A herbal supplement may contain the same herbs as a herbal medicine. The effect and safety of herbal supplements do not have to be assessed like medicines before they can be sold in the Netherlands.

Herbal supplements fall under the Commodities Act, just like food supplements containing vitamins and minerals. The Commodities Act states that a product may not endanger the health and safety of consumers. The Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA) carries out risk-oriented checks to ensure that producers, traders and sellers comply with the legal rules. For example through random checks in (web) shops or by investigating complaints and reports about potentially unsafe products. If a product does not meet the safety requirements, the NVWA intervenes. You can read more about the safety of supplements on the NVWA website.

An information leaflet is not compulsory for herbal supplements. Important information should be on the label. Herbal supplements may not have a medical indication. However, health claims are allowed.

Country of origin requirements (COOL)

Where does a food come from? There are many detailed rules for labelling the origin of pre-packaged food in the Netherlands. These are as follows.

One determines the country of origin of a food product using the Dutch Customs Code (see also Art. 60 of Regulation (EU) No 952/2013). Goods coming entirely from one country or territory have that country or territory as origin. For goods coming from two or more countries or territories, the country of origin is the country or territory where the last substantial, economically justified processing or working took place.

Reference can also be made to the place of origin. That is the place from which the food comes according to the label. The place of origin is not the same as the country of origin. The word ‘designation’ is broader than ‘appellation’; it includes all indications on a label, such as flags and maps referring to a specific geographical area.

National symbols such as a national monument, a landscape or a person can also be perceived by consumers as indicating the origin or provenance of the food. This should be assessed on a case-by-case basis.

Mandatory origin labelling means that the country of origin or place of provenance of the food must be indicated:

  • if omission could mislead the consumer about the true country of origin or place of origin of the food. This is particularly common if information accompanying or on the label implies a different country of origin or place of origin, e.g. Gouda cheese produced in Germany; and
  • for meat from pigs, sheep, goats or poultry that is fresh, chilled or frozen.

There is still discussion at an European level as to whether mandatory origin labelling will also be introduced for other foods, such as milk and unprocessed foods.

Voluntary origin labelling applies if the country of origin or place of origin of the food is voluntarily declared and it is not the same as the country of origin or place of origin of the primary ingredient

If one opts for voluntary origin labelling, one must comply with a number of rules. One of these rules is the following one.

If the country of origin or place of origin of a primary ingredient is not the same as the country of origin or place of origin of the food, one states this with:

(a) a reference to one of the following geographical areas for the primary ingredient:

‘EU’, ‘non-EU’ or ‘EU and non-EU’

  • a Member State or third country
  • a region within a Member State or third country that is well understood by the normally informed average consumer; or

(b) the following statement:

‘(name of the primary ingredient(s)) is/are not from (the country of origin or place of origin of the food)’, or any other similar wording having the same meaning for the consumer.

Finally, the primary ingredient is the ingredient that constitutes more than 50 per cent of the food or is usually associated with the name of the food and for which, in most cases, a quantitative indication is required. A food may have one primary ingredient, more than one primary ingredient, no primary ingredient and/or a combination of primary ingredients.

Does a product contain more than 50% animal ingredients such as meat, fish or dairy? Then producers must state on the label in which country or region they make this product. This obligation does not apply to eggs and honey.

Definitions of vegetarian and vegan

Article 36(3) of Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 states that the European Commission will adopt implementing regulations on a number of subjects, including information on relating to the suitability of a food for vegetarians or vegans.

There is no deadline for these implementing regulations and it is not known when they will be published. In mid-2021, a Dutch proposal for definitions for vegetarian and vegan was published via the (so-called) Regulier Overleg Levensmiddelen.

The then proposed definitions regarding ‘vegetarian’ and ‘vegan’ were:

(1) ‘Vegan’ are foods that contain no products of animal origin and in which at no stage of production or processing has any use been made of, or the food has been supplemented with, ingredients (including additives, carriers flavourings and enzymes) or adjuvants or substances which are not food additives but which are used in the same way and with the same purpose as processing aids in processed or unprocessed form, which are of animal origin.

(2) ‘Vegetarian’ are foods that meet the requirements of paragraph 1, with the difference

that in their production: 1. milk, 2. colostrum, 3. eggs (No. 5 of Annex I to Regulation (EC) No. 853/2004), 4. honey (Annex I to Directive 2001/110 / EC), 5. beeswax, 6. propolis or 7. wool fat including lanolin derived from the wool of live sheep, or constituents or derivatives

thereof may be added or used.

(3) A claim that a food is vegan or vegetarian is not precluded by unintentional presence in the food of products that do not meet the requirements of paragraphs 1 or 2, if and to the extent that this is technically unavoidable at all stages of production processing and distribution, despite appropriate precautions having been taken in accordance with good manufacturing practices.

(4) Paragraphs 1–3 apply mutatis mutandis where food information is provided which is synonymous with ‘vegan’ or ‘vegetarian’ from the consumer’s point of view

There is still discussion on this proposal, but the proposal can be used as guidance according to the Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (NVWA). The NVWA has indicated that the definitions of the European Vegetarian Union can also be used as guidance.

In addition, there has been en still is discussion in the Netherlands about the naming of vegetarian products. The NVWA has taken a policy position on the naming of vegetarian products. This position reads:

For vegetarian variants of meat and fish products:

  • food business operators may use common designations such as ‘schnitzel’, ‘burger’ and ‘sausage’ in the name of the product, provided it is clear that the product is a vegetarian variant. This means that the designations ‘veggie schnitzel’, ‘veggie burger’, ‘vegetarian smoked sausage’ are permitted;
  • animal species names may be used, as long as it is clear that a vegetarian variant

is concerned. This means, for example, that designations such as ‘vegetarian chicken pieces’, ‘vegetarian tuna’, ‘vegetarian crab salad’ are permitted, but not exclusively the wording ‘chicken pieces’ and ‘tuna and ‘crab salad’;

reserved names may only be used for products that meet the legal requirements imposed on the reserved name. For meat/meat products/meat preparations established reserved names (designations) are not permitted in use for meatless products, including in combination with ‘vegetarian’. Also the use of misspelled animal species names or misspelled reserved designations (e.g. vegetarian ‘hacked’) is not permitted.

The possibility of requiring the use of the term ‘vegetarian’ in vegetarian meat variants

is being further explored.

Fortification of foods

So-called fortified foods are foods with one or more vitamins, minerals or certain other substances added. These foods must first and foremost comply with EU regulations applicable to all non-fortified foods. In addition, the Regulation (EC) No 1923/2006 contains specific rules on adding vitamins, minerals and other substances to foods. This Regulation applies directly in the Netherlands.

Under the Regulation, vitamins and minerals may not be added to unprocessed products and beverages containing more than 1.2% by volume of alcohol. Annex I of the Regulation contains the list of vitamins and minerals that may be added to foods. Only the chemical forms of these vitamins and minerals listed in Annex II of the regulation may be used. These forms were assessed by EFSA and found to be safe.

In national legislation, the Commodities Act Decree on the Preparation and Treatment of Food (in Dutch: Warenwetbesluit bereiding en behandeling van levensmiddelen) contains a general ban on adding vitamins, fluorine and iodine compounds and amino acids and their salts to food. However, there are two exceptions from this prohibition:

If a legislative provision stipulates that the addition of certain substances to food is allowed (e.g. various vitamins and minerals for infant formula and food supplements; vitamins A and D to margarine and similar products and iodine to bread and other bakery products);

The Commodities Act Decree on the Addition of Micronutrients to Foods (in Dutch: Warenwetbesluit toevoeging micro-voedingsstoffen aan levensmiddelen) applies – in addition to Regulation (EU) No 1923/2006 – to products for the Dutch market. Micro-nutrients as referred to in this Commodities Act Decree are defined as: ‘nutrients that are indispensable for the functioning of the human organism, which the organism cannot provide itself and which must be consumed in small quantities’.

The Decree distinguishes between two types of products:

Substitute products:

Fortified food or beverage products that are intended to replace existing goods, and are as similar as possible in appearance, consistency, taste, colour, odour and intended use to the food or beverage to be replaced; and to which one or more micronutrients have been added at levels not exceeding those in which those substances are naturally present in the food or drink to be replaced.

Restored food and beverage products:

Fortified food or beverage products prepared in accordance with good manufacturing practice guidelines; and to which one or more micronutrients have been added to the levels in which they were naturally present in the edible part of the goods or in the edible parts of the raw materials for the goods before preparation, but which have disappeared from them after or during preparation.

Under the Commodities Act Decree on the Addition of Micronutrients to Foods, the micronutrients vitamin A in the form of retinoids, vitamin D, folic acid, selenium, copper and zinc may only be added to fortified food or beverages for the purpose of making it a substitute product or a restored food or beverage product.

Other vitamins and minerals listed in Annex II and Annex III of the Decree may only be added to fortified food or beverages in such quantities that the total content present in a reasonably estimated daily consumption of such food or beverage is not less than 15% and not more than 100% of the recommended daily allowance specified in that Annex. These amounts do not apply in the case of a substitute product or a restored food or beverage product.

Finally, there is an exemption for folic acid and vitamin D. The Commodities Act Regulation Exemption on the addition of folic acid and vitamin D (in Dutch: Warenwetregeling vrijstelling toevoeging foliumzuur en vitamine D) states that an exemption from section 5 of the Commodities Act Decree on the Addition of Micro-nutrients to Foods applies to the extent that, per quantity of the product providing an energy value of 100 kcal:

  • the added folic acid content does not exceed 100 µg; and
  • the added vitamin D content does not exceed 4.5 µg.

Other exemptions might be possible but only upon request.


This is general information rather than legal advice and is current as of 30 May 2024. We recommend you contact a specialised food lawyer for legal advice for your particular circumstances to support commercial decisions which could impact your product or business.