Deadline set for children's health claims

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Claims, European union, European commission

The European Commission has adopted a transition period for
companies making health and nutrition claims aimed at children,
which sets a date of the beginning of next year for claims to be
submitted.

The health and nutrition claims (Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006), which came into force in the UK from 1 July 2007, means any food product claiming to have a health or nutritional benefit must meet a list of European Commission approved wording. The scope of the changes will not just affect food packaging, but website content associated with the food as well. The regulation also covers foods which make a claim aimed at preventing disease, as well as those aimed at children's health. The European Commission had previously omitted a transitory period for companies wishing to make claims aimed at children, the EHPM said. This omission meant products that were not placed on the market or labelled before the beginning of July would not be allowed to make claims that refer to children's development and health. According to the federation, companies would have to stop making these claims on their products and wait for up to two years for a possible authorisation to able to use the same claim again. Provisions on children's claims were introduced at a very late stage of the regulation's adoption procedure without providing for transitional measures, the group said, adding that the new six-month transition period to submit scientific claims showed a "a clear recognition of the urgency of the issue​." The commission's move brings the children's health claims deadline in line with those set for general and disease prevention claims. The decision has been welcomed by the European Federation of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM). A spokesperson said: "The regulation's lack of transition period for claims referring to children's development and health (article 14) has long been a concern for food companies, many of whom alreadyuse such claims on products in the EU market​." The proposal applies to claims referring to children's development and health that have been used in compliance with national provisions before 19 January 2007. Now EU Member States that have already evaluated and authorised these claims would be required to present reports to the commission showing the related scientific substantiation by 31 January 2008, which will be looked at by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Claims that were not evaluated and authorised in a Member State can continue to be used provided an application for authorisation is made before 19 January 2008. In both cases if the final decision is negative, the claim in question will have to be phased out within six months. Peter van Doorn, EHPM chairman, said: "We are pleased that the commission has seen the necessity to amend this aspect of the regulation. A transitional periodwill ensure that food companies have enough time to make a smooth transition.​" Other aspects of the health and nutrition claims regulation have also proved controversial in the industry. For instance, the European Botanical Forum said there needs to be changes to the regulation, which does not include any reference to the traditional use of botanicals as food ingredients. The group said last month that traditional botanicals now face an uncertain future and fears a whole range of botanicals maybe under threat. For example, teas containing plant extracts such as camomile may not be able to claim the drink was relaxing without a clinical trial being carried out.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Suppliers

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