Long wait predicted for EU food laws

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

A Brussels consultancy group has warned that the harmonisation
process for EU food laws, including maximum mineral and vitamin
levels, has "a long way to go" before completion.

European Advisory Services (EAS) said the "vastly different national approaches​" currently in place will continue to impact on companies launching onto the European marketplace. Manager of scientific and regulatory affairs Efi Leontopoulou also stressed the strategic importance of the evolving regulatory climate in non-EU countries such as Russia and Turkey, which she described as being "two complex but very promising markets for the food industry." ​ She added that: "Bulgariaand Romania have recently joined the EU and this creates new market opportunities but also more challenges in terms of the harmonisation process." ​A lengthy wait is predicted due to the number or rules and complexity of the current situation, but EAS was unable to say how long this might take prior to publication. ​The warning means that uncertainty about what may or may not be imposed for minerals and vitamins will continue to spread through the industry. Some countries could suffer a blow if EU legislation were to proscribe the sale of high dose products or vice versa. In the UK, for example, high dose products account for 12 to 15 per cent of the £220m vitamin and mineral market and could experience trouble if high doses were granted. The proposed European Commission ruling is aimed at harmonising levels across the bloc for supplements and fortified foods. Member states at the moment vary dramatically on maximum and minimum levels, which would come to an end once Europe-wide unification is imposed. Yesterday NutraIngredients.com reported how lobbyists from Consumers for Health Choice have pleaded with the commission president José Manuel Barroso to not stay away from a heavy-handed approach to maximum levels. The setting of maximum levels forms part of the 2002 Food Supplements Directive, and the new fortified foods regulation. Leontopoulou added that: "The exercise is a most challenging practice at the moment and should not be underestimated. "Working with all of these different national legislations in Europe can be quite a minefield for companies, from issues such as the addition of nutrients to foods and the types of ingredients permitted in countries, to details on new product notification requirements and national approaches towards derogations for vitamins and minerals." ​ EAS is due to release its latest report Marketing Food Supplements, Fortified and Functional Foods in Europe: Legislation and Practice 2008, which it says will help companies get up to speed with the legislation and how it might affect them, next month. A working party of Member States is expected to sit down and discuss maximum health claims next week, and the Commission is expected to propose a directive with actual figures in 2009.

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