July 1, 2001
Amsterdam, The Netherlands: Dr Els Borst-Eilers, the Dutch Minister of Health, Welfare and Sport, has rejected suggestions from the Consumentedbond (Consumer's Association) that the government should force manufacturers of functional foods to substantiate any health claims made. "It is not the intention of the Dutch government to make a law about this," she told the Dutch parliament.
Instead the Ministry of Health has encouraged the official Voedingscentrum (Nutrition Centre) and the health food industry agency Keuringsraad Aanprijzing Gezondheidsproducten (KAG) to work more closely together to resolve the Consumer's Association's concerns about the issue.
The Nutrition Centre currently regulates a voluntary code for functional food health claims, while KAG checks label and advertising claims on around 1000 health products a year. Currently only a small number of manufacturers conform to the Nutrition Centre's code, which is widely regarded as too strict to be practical.
Discussions are already under way about possible revisions to the Nutrition Centre code. Theo van Rooij, chairman of Dutch health food manufacturers' association Natuur- & gezondheidsProducten Nederland (NPN), told Functional Foods & Nutraceuticals that he welcomed the move to less strict standards. "Substantiation of health claims is important but it must be possible for claims based on literature to be admissible too," he said. "At the moment, the Nutrition Centre even wants claims that vitamin C supports the immune system to be subject to trials. This is unrealistic and not fair."
"Another important principle should be that the stronger the claim, the more science will be needed to substantiate the claim," he added.
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