The European regulatory climate governing nutrition and health claims is set to get a lot tougher if the latest European Commission draft proposal is adopted in its current state.
A leaked document on the EC's initial draft proposal, first published last summer, reveals how seriously Europe views the task of cracking down on ambiguous and misleading claims. The new document is causing widespread concern.
Pedro deAzua, regulatory affairs director of the European Federation of Associations Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), said his association held many reservations about the proposal. "Many countries have a lot of health claims. These seem certain to be reduced once they pass before the European Food Safety Authority and then the EC, and yet their criteria has not been made clear to us," said deAzua. "It seems like a very restrictive piece of legislation. We want to know more about how these procedures are to be carried out."
Penny Viner, director of the UK-based Health Food Manufacturers Association, also expressed concern "The basis of food law is to prevent food producers from misleading consumers. We have no problem with that," she said. "But there are many areas in this proposal we would seek to challenge. For instance, cognitive claims continue to be ruled out. They've become rather usual in the current market but regulators think the claims don't add up.
"We'll challenge that because we in the functional foods industry think there is a lot of work they have not actually looked at.
"We also think there are serious question marks over time-scale and practicality given the number of different cultures and languages and the way different parts of Europe perceive health," she added.
A formally updated proposal was expected as FF&N went to press.