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Health claims vote: the debate

Posted March 28, 2012 in Latest News

Our Head of Regulatory Affairs Lorraine Eve blogs about the recent European Parliament health claims vote.

The Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) Committee of Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) voted on the 222-strong health claims list this week and unsurprisingly, there were mixed feelings within the industry.

After what seems like years of to-ing and fro-ing on the subject, the decision to reject hundreds of ‘misleading’ health claims and instead authorise 222 which have previously been identified as scientifically substantiated, was welcomed by some and criticised by others.

And it’s easy to understand why. From a consumer point of view, a European-wide list of permitted health claims would no doubt help with understanding (in terms of the nutritional benefits of certain foods), as well as help people make informed decisions about what they do and don’t want to put in their bodies. Indeed, pro-regulation lobbying groups believe that it will ensure consumers are not ‘led down the garden path’ when it comes to over-inflated claims about their food.

But let’s not get ahead of ourselves here. Whilst it is good news that there is finally a glimmer of clarity on the subject, no one can forget quite how long it has taken to get to this point. The hoops that the industry has had to jump through to get claims approved have been nothing short of ridiculous, which is reflected in the number of claims that have been rejected due to lack of data.

And what of the healthy food makers and ingredient suppliers who will have to comply with this legislation? How will the 2,000 rejected health claims affect their business? There are many who are worried that the passing of the law will be the death of them financially, and unfortunately, some of them might not be far wrong.

But if there’s anything positive that can be taken from this – from an industry point of view – it’s that a new more defined list will at least provide some clarity for food manufacturers when it comes to research and subsequent new product development.