EU nutrient profiling delays to continue

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrient profiling Nutrition

Nutrient profiling, the system that will govern which foods and supplements can make health claims and which can’t, may not be adopted by the summer, according to consultancy, European Advisory Services (EAS).

The Brussels-based food law specialist noted that “more meetings and discussions” ​are necessary before the complex sub-regulation can be finalised, and it therefore may struggle to enter the legislature before European Parliament elections in June this year.

EAS advisor Manueal da Silva said the delay to the regulation that was due for finalisation by January 19 this year was not necessarily a bad thing as there were crucial finer points that remained to be ironed out and it gave industry more time to make formulation, labelling and other adjustments, if necesssary.

Highly controversial

Nutrient profiling, like the nutrition and health claims regulation it forms an as yet unwritten part of, has been highly controversial and much-debated and amended even in this draft stage.

The basic idea of the system is that unhealthy foods should not not able to bear health claims because they may also contain one or more healthy ingredients.

While this idea is simple enough it is complicated by certain foods such as some fresh juices that under a crude nutrient profiling system would not be able to make, say, antioxidant-based health claims because of their inherently raised level of fructose.

Many yoghurt products that may seek to make probiotic-based digestive health and immunity claims may also be blocked from doing so because they can be high in fat, and in some cases, sugar, and therefore breach suggested thresholds for fat, sugar and salt.

How best to deal with such anomalies drives the debate on and has provided an array of, according to da Silva, potential “deal breakers”.

Many versions, much controversy

“Various versions of the Commission working document on the setting of the profiles have been intensively discussed since June 2008, and in the last two months the EU member states have had the opportunity to share their positions on the latest version, which remained controversial,” ​said da Silva, adding some points “are the object of clear disagreements”.

“These include the eligibility criteria for certain food categories that benefit from the adapted profiles model, such as dairy and cereal products, but also the threshold for sugar in the case of ‘non-alcoholic beverages’, thresholds for sodium in bread and cheese, and so forth.”​ Greater momentum toward consensus has been achieved in the area of which foods and food supplements will be exempt from nutrient profiling criteria. These are likely to include:

  • fruits, vegetables and their products, presented fresh, frozen, dried, or under any other form in so far as they contain no added sugars, salt or fat
  • certain dietetic foods, which would be exempted to comply with the profiles with regard to their nutrients for which levels are already regulated:
  • Cereal-based foods and baby foods intended for infants and young children
  • Foods intended for use in energy-restricted diets for weight reduction
  • Infant formulae and follow-on formulae
  • Dietary foods for special medical purposes

The Commission will next formally consider nutrient profiling at a​Standing Committee meeting on February 20.

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