16/07/02 - A Jerusalem Post article earlier this week reported that the Israeli Health Ministry's Food and Nutrition Service (FNS) is drawing up amendments which would allow manufacturers of certain food and supplement products to make claims about the health benefits of products. Although this is currently illegal in Israel, the practice is in fact widespread, and the Ministry is now working to ensure tighter regulation. The new rules are expected to come into force within a couple of months. Current consumer protection law obliges product advertising or labelling be correct, supportable and not misleading.
The article adds that many food and supplement products can be shown to have genuine health effects, and the FNS wanted to ensure that products which could prove such effects were able to use this in their advertising and labelling. The amendment will follow the rules of the US Food and Drug Administration, which allows 12 food claims, including the connection between low fat and a lower risk of heart disease, fibre and a lower risk for colon cancer, low- or no-sugar and dental health, folic acid and a lower risk of neural tube disorders in babies and calcium to reduce the risk of osteoporosis. Even though clinical studies had shown that cranberry juice was effective for urinary infections by preventing bacteria from "sticking" to urinary tract tissues, or that prebiotic yoghurt could balance the type of harmful bacteria that cause diarrhoea, since the data was not overwhelming, these claims were not added.
The ministry has decided not to bar functional food health messages that claim they promote "proper functioning" of the body, even though these have not yet been proven scientifically, but has decided to require these products to be labelled with the message: "The Health Ministry has not approved the claims of this product." In addition, food labels stating "with Health Ministry authorisation" or "with Health Ministry licence" will be barred, as they have been misinterpreted as backing up manufacturers' therapeutic claims, when the statement in fact means only that the ingredients are fit for human consumption.
Source: Jerusalem Post