Lycopene, lutein, CoQ10, probiotics and any other nutrients rejected under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) could be banned in food supplements, a Swedish government official told a congress in Brussels this morning. But legal hounds at the event ridiculed the suggestion.
A lively discussion about the convergence conundrum occurring around EU food and food supplement laws led Anita Laser Reutersward, from the Swedish National Food Administration (SNFA), to suggest rejected NHCR nutrients could have limited shelf life in EU food supplements.
“A nutrient used in a food supplement must have a nutritional and physiological effect, but if the European Food Safety Authority has rejected the effect, then what role does it have in a food supplement?” Reutersward said afterwards. “We would like to discuss this more with other member states.”
Legal experts at the two-day event – EU Regulations for Food Supplements 2013 – said the position did not stand up in EU law.
“Sweden wanting to ban all nutrients with rejected health claims is clearly a misinterpretation of EU law,” said the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA) secretary general, Patrick Coppens.
Event chair Sebastion Romero Melchor, from K&L Gates, agreed, noting the position confused requirements of the NHCR with nutrition and compositional labelling.
“Certain terms like probiotics have been deemed to be implied health claims as per the NHCR and European Commission guidelines, so there are restraints around the use of those terms, but to say that all nutrients with rejected claims cannot even be used in food supplements is a gross misinterpretation of the law.”
In the case of probiotics it is becoming apparent individual strains can appear on-label, rather than the broader, and seemingly loaded descriptor, ‘probiotics’.
Maximum upper levels (MPLs) for food supplements
Ten years after the writing into law of the EU Food Supplements Directive (FSD), Reutersward wondered why MPLs remained unharmonsied across the EU’s 27 member states and was joined by her Dutch and Austrian peers, Inge Stoelhorst and Dr Amire Mahmood respectively.
“Not as yet,” Dr Mahmood said when asked if her department or others she knew of were organising to lobby new EU health commissioner, Tonio Borg. His predecessor John Dalli never prioritised MPLs as an issue, something that pleased high-dose advocates like those in the UK’s liberal market that would prefer MPLs to be left in the hands of individual member states.
“Maybe we should get together and discuss this more,” said Dr Mahmood.
The botanical sabbatical
The EC’s Basil Mathioudakis opened the event and said discussions were progressing about the treatment of 2078 on-hold botanical claims under the NHCR, but he noted the difficulty of the problem, especially with legal cases against the regulation mounting which question the fairness, among other matters, of on-hold nutrients being able to continue making claims while others are banned.
Mathioudakis mentioned the possibility of a new regulation for botanical claims for foods but spoke of problems of timing, along with how it would interact with the NHCR, not to mention the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD).
“[Former EU health commissioner] John Dalli raised questions about the political correctness of having rules that were applicable to those substances marketed as medicinal and a different approach for evidence to substantiate claims in food products,” Mathioudakis said.
He said as it stood, few botanical claims would win positive opinions from EFSA, as the agency placed little stock in tradition-of-use data.