Over 350 companies have written to the President of the European Commission in a mass appeal to put a halt to the European Union’s proposed piecemeal approach to adopting the list of functional health claims (article 13.1 of Regulation 1924/2006/EC).
The letter, which has been signed by large, medium and small companies from across Europe in the food and nutrition industry, including food supplement manufacturers, food manufacturing companies and ingredient suppliers, calls for EU Commission’s President José Manuel Barroso’s personal intervention to stop the adoption of the list of “positive” functional health claims in batches.
According to this European group of companies, the current piecemeal approach to the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (the ‘Regulation’) distorts competition in the market; creates unnecessary and disproportionate costs for manufacturers, due to successive label changes; and creates confusion in the market as non-harmonised claims co-exist with harmonised claims with unequal conditions of access to markets across the EU. The companies believe that the current approach will ultimately have a potentially devastating impact on the industry, which is not justified as many of those claims in question, have been accepted on national markets on products used by consumers for decades.
“The Regulation did not provide for the adoption of these health claims in batches, in fact it specifically envisaged one consolidated community list, and our immediate concern is that this piecemeal approach would severely distort competition. It is neither acceptable, nor proportionate, as it creates significant and unnecessary costs for manufacturers in an already difficult economic environment,” says Philip Chapelle, Director of Research and Development in the French company Arkopharma and one of the many signatory to the letter.
The letter has been coordinated by the European Health Claims Alliance (EHCA), an alliance of companies from across different sectors of the food and nutrition industry, which came together for the pursuit of the same aim – to have their common concerns on the current implementation of Article 13 of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (the ‘Regulation’) and its impact on industry heard, according to the EHCA coordinator.
Article 13 of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation provides for the approval of generic health claims (function claims) based on generally accepted scientific evidence, following the consultation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). If accepted, these claims are to be included in a positive Community list of claims permitted for use in the labeling and advertising of foods in the EU.
It was expected that this Community list would be published in January 2010, but the deadline has passed, with EFSA choosing to publish its opinions on about 4500 claims in batches rather than at the same time. EFSA delivered its first batch opinions on 523 claims on 1 October 2009, its second batch of opinions on 416 claims in February 2010, and its third batch of opinions on 600 or so claims is expected in July. EFSA have not yet indicated how many more batches they intend to adopt or when they will be published.
If companies would like to sign this letter, signatures can be registered on: www.healthclaimsletter.org.
For more information please contact the European Health Claims Alliance coordinator Nathalie Wood: [email protected]; Brussels, tel: (+32) (0) 2 209 11 44.