JHCI bows out in advance of EU health claims regulation
the end of this month as its core activities are supplanted by the
EU regulation on nutrition and health claims.
The JHCI was established in 2000 with the aim of assessing health claims on foods. An independent coalition made up of representatives from consumer groups, law enforcement agencies and industry bodies, its mission has been to provide voluntary advice on the truthfulness of health claims made by products prior to entry onto the UK market. But with the new regulation applicable from July 1, the JHCI's role in assessing claims becomes the task of the European Food Standards Authority (EFSA), and food companies wishing to differentiate their products on the basis of claims will have to adhere to the new legal framework. It has not been a legal requirement that claims be assessed by the JHCI prior to marketing in the UK, however has been required that claims on product packaging and marketing materials should not mislead consumers; should be substantiated by good evidence; and should not claim to treat or cure a disease. Executive director Melanie Ruffell said that the initiative was always seen as an interim measure in the absence of specific legislation for health claims. But she said: "The tripartite alliance has enabled JHCI to provide independent and reliable advice in the short term and, in the long term, has helped set the future standard for health claims by approving claims and successfully operating the JHCI Code of Practice and Guidelines for Substantiation." During its existence, the JHCI initiative approved five generic claims: for reduced saturated fat and blood cholesterol; for wholegrain food and heart health; for soya protein and blood cholesterol; for oats and blood cholesterol; and for omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids and heart health. This work will not go to waste as the UK and Europe enter a new legal environment, since the dossiers supporting the approved generic claims are being transferred to the Food Standards Agency so that they will still be accessible. Moreover, the JHCI website will remain live, at www.jhci.org.uk Last summer the JHCI conducted a review of its own guidance on health claims submissions, taking into account feedback from submitting companies, with the aim of helping the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) develop processes for when the impending EU-wide health claims legislation comes into force. The EU regulation on nutrition and health claims (1924/2006) came into force at the beginning of this year, after an extended period of wrangling and subsequent compromise deal between the European Parliament and Council. It becomes applicable from July 1. At present, national authorities are busying themselves with compiling lists of claims that that they believe to be generic, for submission to EFSA. However there are no guarantees that any such claims will make it onto EFSA's final list, which may not emerge until 2010. In the meantime, companies are being advised to ensure they have the science in order behind their products, so that they will be in a strong position to submit credible dossiers to EFSA. This month EFSA also published its first guidelines on the preparation and submission of dossiers covering applications for risk reduction, children's health and development, and newly-developed scientific evidence or proprietary data (articles 14 and 18). EFSA has said that further guidance will be available in the coming months, with a comprehensive document expected by the summer. It is advising companies to hold off from submitting any claims until this document is available.