The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has released long-awaited details on how companies can submit statements they wish to be accepted as part of the EU's new legislation on health and nutrition claims.
Under the proposals, regulation (EC) No 1924/2006, which came into force in the UK from 1 July 2007, any food product claiming to have a health, nutritional or disease related benefit, must meet a list of European Commission approved wording.
EFSA's guidance, released yesterday, will help companies with what they need to include in their application, in particular concerning the scientific data and evidence required to support claims.
Although the regulation came into force this month in the UK, the European Commission is not expected to agree a list of approved literature until the end of the year. Later this summer an orientation paper is due to be sent from the commission to member states with draft options for the best way forward.
The scope of the changes will not just affect food packaging, but website content associated with the food as well.
A draft guidance document had already been published by EFSA and was branded as "complex" by the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), who called for the final guidelines to be made simpler.
Members states were consulted over the claims and some 300 comments were considered by EFSA after a meeting in June.
The consultation led to text changes resulting in a clearer, simpler and more user-friendly document EFSA said, with examples added to assist applicants. It includes in detail the type of studies that will be accepted, such as human intervention and observational studies, published and non-published data as well.
An EFSA spokesperson said: "Following questions raised during the consultation, clarifications have been made for instance regarding the type of information required for a claim concerning an ingredient or a food and the type of human studies to be considered."
EFSA's scientific panel on Dietetic products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) will assess the wording of the health claim to make sure it reflects the scientific evidence. The panel will ensure that claims that are considered from a scientific point of view to be vague, confusing or misleading will not receive a favourable opinion.
EFSA expects to assess and print an opinion on the first claims handed in within five months.