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Health claims deadline passes

By Alex McNally , 01-Feb-2008

The deadline for health claims to be submitted by member states to the European Commission passed yesterday, and among those passed on was the UK's 4,000 page dossier.

The country's 3,931 page-long booklet, submitted by the Food Standards Agency (FSA), shows the scale of the task before the Commission and the European Food Safety Authority, which is preparing to draft in "significant" resources to assess the claims. The Commission has already expressed concern about the volume of possible claims. It says it is too early to say how many have come forward from the 27 EU members - but it is expected to be in the high thousands. Article 13 Under the health claims regulation companies who want to make a claim about the nutritional benefits of a product must back have it supported by science. Known as article 13, these dossiers were collected by national regulators who had until yesterday to pass them to the European Commission. Before the Commission rubber-stamps the claims, they will be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for scientific illegibility. An FSA spokesperson said: "The regulation requires that claims must be supported by references to generally accepted scientific evidence and the European Food Safety Authority will assess this. "The Agency did not, therefore, look into the references in detail. However, we were unable to consider non-English language references and non-published references for the UK list; and we have highlighted where it was not obvious that a claim was supported by references to human studies." Its public list is divided into five parts: Carbohydrates, Diets, Fats, Fibre, and Foods and Beverages; Minerals and other; Probiotic Ingredients, Protein, and Vitamins; Plant substances with no known medicinal use in the UK; Plant substances also with medicinal use in the UK. FSA has not included any sample wording in the document it has made public as it received multiple entries and thought it was "not possible to include them all." They have been included in the copy handed to the Commission. Once EFSA has assessed the scientific dossiers it will pass them back to the Commission, which is expected to draw up a final community list in the beginning of January.

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