Parnuts differ from ordinary foods making nutritional or functional claims in that they must fulfil a particular nutritional requirement - that is, for people whose digestive or metabolic processes are disturbed; for people who may benefit from certain nutrients due to a physiological condition; or healthy infants and children.
The FSA's proposals would give it the power to restrict sale of Parnuts that are not clearly distinguishable in their marketing from foods for normal consumption, that are not suitable for their claimed particular nutritional use, or which endanger human health.
If approved, they could cause manufacturers of products classified as Parnuts to reassess their approach to marketing and ensure that it is compliant. "Businesses producing/distributing certain parnuts foods would be affected by theproposed Regulations," said the FSA. It does not expect it to have any affect on consumers, regardless of gender, age, health or income.
According to the government agency, the Parnuts food sector in the UK isdominated by 10 large companies, with around 40 others also involved in production and distribution.
Regulation governing the sale of Parnuts has existed for almost two decades, first introduced with the Council Directive 89/398/EEC and amended by Directive 1999/41/EC.
However while article 11 of the latter gives grounds for the authority within a member state to restrict trade of Parnuts and sets out the procedure for doing this, this has not yet been implemented in England.
"Implementing the new regulations will enable the Food Standards Agency to protect the consumer against fraud," said the agency.
It is likely that most Parnuts products will already been in compliance with the regulations, since article 9 of the 1999 directive set out the procedures by which new product manufacturers and importers must provide the authorities with a model label to be used for the product.
This article was implemented by the 2002 Notification of Marketing of Food for Particular Nutritional Purposes (England and Wales) Regulations 2002 SI 333.
In its new proposals, the FSA is seeking to revoke the 2002 regulations, but continue the existing arrangements for pre-market approval of Parnuts foods under article 9 of the original, 1989 directive. The FSA is asking stakeholders for their agreement on the proposals, and will be accepting comments until December 22.