Industry should lobby for changes to health claims law

Related tags Vitamin Chris whitehouse

The hundreds of amendments tabled by MEPs on the EU health claims
regulation shows that consensus is still a long way off but
companies should do more to influence the final outcome, says a
food industry consultancy.

A provisional analysis by the Whitehouse Consultancy has found that a total of 350 amendments have now been tabled by the European Parliament's environment committee, discussing the proposed regulation for the second time in two years.

"The huge number of amendments tabled to this proposal indicates the strength of political feeling that remains, something that has not been softened by the report of Mrs Poli Bortone,"​ said Chris Whitehouse.

"This is starkly highlighted by Martin Callanan MEP who has taken the unusual step of calling on the Parliament to reject the Commission proposal in its entirety."

However many of the other amendments attempt to significantly dilute the proposed regulation, said Whitehouse, and the food industry should lobby harder to support those amendments in its interest.

"Many proposed amendments seek to address the complete ban on slimming claims contained in article 11 of the regulation, others seek to strengthen the position of sports nutrition products, and others put down by John Bowis MEP and initiated by UK campaigners, allow the UK to continue to permit onto its domestic market vitamin and mineral supplements which lie outside the very restrictive scope of the food supplements directive,"​ explained Whitehouse.

He told that individual companies should write to MEPs on the environment committee confirming their support for certain amendments, prior to the committee's vote on the proposed amendments expected on 21 April.

"This is a crucial point in the legislative process. UK businesses should not be complacent.They have a great deal to play for with this regulation and should invest the necessary resources now to achieve the best possible outcome,"​ said Whitehouse.

Some of the amendments include one tabled by John Bowis (EPP), Horst Schnellhardt (EPP), Martin Callanan (EPP), Holger Krahmer (ALDE) and Urszula Krupa (IND) deleting the controversial article 4, relating to nutrient profiling, in its entirety.

Others by EPP members and by Jules Maaten, the ALDE shadow rapporteur, push generally for further clarification of what constitutes nutrient profiling and asks the Commission to return with a feasibility study, a new regulation through co-decision or an amendment to this proposal over varying timeframes all of which exceed the 18 months presently envisaged.

An amendment tabled in the form of an addition to article 4 by Dagmar Roth-Behrendt (PSE) would allow member states to exempt products from the provisions of this regulation providing they are established on the market by the time law comes into force.

Jules Maaten (ALDE) has proposed that nutrient profiles become the responsibility of industry and not EFSA.

The other highly controversial article, number 11 that refers to health claims, is also the subject of numerous amendments.

Martin Callanan MEP (EPP), Ria Oomen-Ruijten MEP (EPP), Jules Maaten MEP (ALDE) and Holger Krahmer MEP (ALDE) proposed a notification procedure allowing companies to keep making claims even when they have not been approved at the European level.

Avril Doyle MEP (EPP) has tabled an amendment which runs along the same lines as Council discussions which would permit illustrative examples of the wording of health claims, allowing manufacturers to define the exact meaning so long as it remained within the spirit of the illustrative example which had been approved.

Several amendments have been tabled which would permit consumer groups and industry to apply directly to EFSA for authorisation of a claim under article 12.

"It is clear that there is still no consensus about a number of fundamental principles in this regulation, which suggests that there is much more discussion to be had both in the environment committee and in the council of ministers, discussing the regulation in parallel,"​ added Whitehouse.

"It is unfortunate that the industry did not oppose the regulation as a whole when it was first proposed,"​ he noted, but said that support for those amendments offering improvement to the original proposal could reduce some of the potential damage to industry expected to result from the law.

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