Commission u-turn on health claims will boost innovation

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, European commission

A decision has been made by the European Commission to allow health
claims based on new scientific data to be submitted next month -
two years ahead of its original schedule.

Following months of pressure from industry, the rethink will boost innovation and help companies keep the competitive edge, the European Advisory Service has said. The nutrition and health claims regulation (1924/2006), which came into force in Europe 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 regulation is split into several sections. Article 18 covers newly developed evidence as well as a request for proprietary data protection. It was included by the Commission to help innovation, as claims submitted through the article 13 list can be used by any company. The Commission has said article 18 claims can only be submitted once the positive list of accepted claims (article 13) has been drawn up at the beginning of 2010. Now under article 13.5, claims involving newly developed data can be handed to the Commission from the beginning of next month. The new procedure enables companies to have their file approved through an accelerated procedure, and allows exclusive use of their proprietary data for five years. Patrick Coppens, food law manager at Brussels consultancy EAS, said that the decision to allow these claims to be submitted next month instead of 2010 will boost industry competitiveness on the European Union food market. He said: "Such submissions are vital for companies that invest in scientific research for new claims. "When a company has invested in research it doesn't necessarily want to be put on a list that can be used by all of the competition. Article 13.5 allows data protection, which means that competitors must have similar data of their own to submit in order to make the same claim. It is at least some return on investment." ​ Coppens estimates the authorisation procedure would take around eight months. In the interim period claims that fall under this legislation can continue to be used. However, he stressed companies should have a thorough understanding of the procedure beforehand. He said: "Those claims currently in use that are not based on proprietary data should already be scientifically justified, which makes it difficult to say then that the claim is based on newly developed scientific evidence. ​These claims should be introduced into the Article 13 list before the deadline of 31 January. If not, companies would either have to withdraw their claim when the claims list is established in 2010, or in the intervening time submit a file to have it approved, he said. The European Responsible Nutrition Alliance and the Confederation of Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) have both fought hard for an amendment and have even called in lawyers to examine the legislation. The groups were told that the Commission may not have the right legal interpretation.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Suppliers

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