Health claims publication tabled for March/April

By Jess Halliday

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European commission European union

Publication of the new European health and nutrition claims and
food fortification regulations has been delayed until next spring -
a scenario that should affect nothing but the timescale for
entering into force, although experts expect more amendments will
be required.

An update​ to this article was published on December 13 2006

Both of the regulations, which have a major impact on the European nutrition industry, were adopted earlier this year and it was expected that they would be published in the official journal of the European Commission in mid-December.

But Miguel da Silva, advisor at European Advisory Services (EAS) told that they will now not be published until March/April 2007. All four texts - health and nutrition claims, its amendment, food fortification, and its amendment - will be published together.

The reason for the delay is not known, but de Silva speculated that the December and January agendas were already full. Publication is merely a formality and it is unlikely that the delay will result in any changes to the text.

However there will be a knock on effect on the date upon which they become applicable, six months after entering into force, and any subsequent transition periods.

Da Silva told that the only amendment currently in the pipeline relates to the comitology procedure.

The comitology procedure relates to enacting periods or amendments to agreed legislation that sketched out in the main body of the text, to be drawn up in full at a later date. A new procedure came into force in July, but it was realised just prior to planned adoption in September that the health claims regulation included the old one.

Fears that the oversight could lead to the entire regulation being returned to the drawing board proved unfounded. In October it was decided to go ahead and adopt the regulation and immediately amend it with the new comitology procedure.

But there are other issues on the table, said da Silva. For instance, just prior to adoption a new category of claims was introduced by Parliament (mainly with the support of the Socialists and the Greens) relating to the growth and development of children. Since they are considered as disease reduction claims, they would need to go through the full approvals process.

But it seems that due consideration was not given to exactly how these claims would be implemented. For example, what happens with existing claims? What should be the transition period likely to be?

Moreover, growth and development of children claims have not been fully defined, said Da Silva. It is not clear whether they apply to babies - and if so do they relate to PARNUTS regulations (food for particular nutritional uses), under which presently infant formula falls.

To solve the questions the Council will have to consult with Member States. One suggestion is that the issues could be solved in interpreting guidelines, but such guidelines do not carry legal weight.

Da Silva said that when regulations prove contentious, as in the case of health and nutrition claims, it is more likely that there will be omissions, or elements will be included that have not been properly thought out.

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