EU set for (yet more) nutrient profiling delays

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrient profiling European union

The European Commission is no closer to finalising a nutrient profiling criteria that will govern which foods and beverages can make health and nutrition claims, according to a Commission official contacted by this morning.

The EC spokesperson said there was “no timeline” ​as the draft proposal published in June is passed around the Commission’s various bodies.

It was initially slated to enter the legislature in January this year but ongoing debate within the EC has caused deadlines to be broken. A draft text due to be presented at a Standing Committee on General Food Law meeting on March 27, is not ready, and so the meeting will only host further discussion.

The next opportunity for the EU’s 27 member states to vote on a draft text will be the next Standing Committee meeting, on 27 April. It may also be discussed at an informal EC meeting on health claims tomorrow.


It is believed there exist major differences of opinion on matters such as nutrient thresholds and exemptions between Robert Madelin, the director general of DG SANCO – the health and consumers directorate - and other arms of the EU body, as well as various EC commissioners.

Such matters include an increase in the threshold for sugar, salt and fat so that more products can make nutrition claims and possible exemption of whole food categories and potentially food supplements.

There is widespread concern that products such as bread and yoghurt that may exceed thresholds in salt or fat, may be prevented from making health claims (the exemption rule states products that may be high in either salt, sugar or fat can make nutrition claims but not health claims).

Such categorical exemptions could include vegetable oils; spreadable fats; dairy products; cereals and cereal products; fruits and vegetables and fruit/vegetable products; meat and meat products; fish and fish products; and non-alcoholic beverages.

Innovation and renovation

Miguel da Silva, of Brussels-based consultancy, EAS, expressed concern about the delays and “secrecy” ​that was increasingly surrounding the process, but was encouraged by sources involved in the process that hinted that any changes were likely to liberalise the proposal in key areas.

“There is rising concern that nutrient profiling should not stifle innovation and renovation of products and so these delays are not necessarily bad as they are making the text more workable for industry,”​ he said.

He said it was unlikely a final text could be assessed by the European Parliament before June elections that would see legislative measures delayed until September.

“It now seems more likely that the adoption will only take place by the end of 2009 or even early in 2010,”​ said da Silva. “Since this is a highly complex issue, in our view this is a positive delay as it will allow more time for the regulators to carefully consider the overall impact of the system being developed on the food industry.”

He added: At this stage, it is very difficult to know the extent of the changes that will be made to the latest draft but we understand these would be quite significant.”

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