Children's health claims face further delay

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

A European Parliament vote on whether to allow a transition period
for companies to make a health claim aimed at children has been set
back a month - increasing fears that further delay would cause
industry disruption.

Under the health claims regulation, businesses wishing to make a claim have to submit an application supporting the claim with scientific evidence. These would then be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority. For general claims (article 13) a transition period means claims can still be used until the dossiers are submitted. But as it stands, there is no transition period for children's claims which means companies who want to market their product as having an effect on children's were not allowed to do so as of July, when the rule came into force. 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 already use such claims on products in the EU market​. It means companies will still have to play the waiting game to find out what is going on. A European Parliament spokesperson said the postponement at last week's environment committee meeting was granted as there was "notime for the debate." ​ Companies will now have to wait until November before the next committee meeting - and even then the amendment will have to be voted on in a plenary session before being handed to the Council for approval. Patrick Coppens, secretary general for the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA), told this morning that concern would be caused if Parliament had not voted on the matter by the end of the year. He said: "If the document is adopted and published before January 19 deadline then I don't think it would be a problem. But after that the transition period would have to be implemented retrospectively, which I think is not good law making. "I still think it can be managed if they hold the plenary in December, but if Parliament delays it further it might be January." ​ In June the European Commission said it would adopt a transition period until the end of January, in order to avoid "disruption to the market." ​ 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 European Commission had previously omitted a transitory period for companies wishing to make claims aimed at children. Coppens said: "It is a very political issue and the fact is that there is no definition of what a child is or what a product aimed at a child is either. "Some say a transition period was not included on purpose, other say it was an oversight."

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