The smiley system for labelling hygiene standards in restaurants currently being tested in North Rhine-Westphalia and the Pankow district of Berlin is a positive example of how the Consumer Information Act can be used.
Consumers can easily and quickly recognise a laughing smiley indicating those bistros, restaurants, snack-bars, grocery stores, bakeries and similar establishments that have above average standards of hygiene and quality. This is not only good for the consumers, but also for the proprietors, who can use the laughing smiley as a competitive advantage.
The fact that the Berlin trial project in Pankow has expanded the system to include a “negative list” is consistent and in the sense of the Consumer Information Act. The list includes those establishments that have contravened the regulations on produce and foodstuffs equivalent to – at very least – a minor breach of the law. The Consumer Information Act is there to provide for free and quick access to information in such cases.
The negative list can put a stop to deeds of black sheep, which will benefit the food industry as a whole. So far, the smiley system has been a voluntary project. The more people who sign up for it, the more everybody will benefit. For this reason, we need to examine whether a voluntary system is really sufficient, as well as looking at how a compulsory smiley system, such as the one in Denmark, could be introduced in Germany.
Elvira Drobinski-Weiß is a member of the German parliament for the Social Democratic Party. Translation by The Local.