EU health claim rules blamed for R&D brain drain

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union Nutrition

At a health claims meeting attended by regulators, politicians and regulators, held in Brussels yesterday, one of the major concerns voiced was the stifling effect on innovation the process was having.

Speaking at the event chaired by Members of European Parliament (MEPs), Jules Maaten and Karin Riis-Jorgensen, Dr Ivan Baines of the Max Planck Institute in Germany, said technology and R&D investment was under threat from the regulation.

As has happened in the pharma industry, R&D activity may move to other regions where the regulatory climate is less restrictive, if the European Union 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation proceeds along its present course.


"The regulation in its current form is acting as a deterrent of food R&D in Europe,” ​Dr Baines said. “This may pre‐empt the development of important nutraceuticals as well as closing the door on European competitiveness in nutrition, wellness and health​".

The Max Planck Institute has stated the fact no economic impact assessment has been performed for the regulation compromises its ability to form part of effective policy making.

Gold, silver, bronze

Ysbrand Poortman, vice president of the World Alliance of Organisations for the Prevention and Treatment of Genetic Conditions, said the emphasis on gold standard, clinical data excluded much solid and valuable science

A system that built on some kind ranking system along the lines of bronze, silver and gold could foster innovation by encouraging a “race to the top”​.


Dutch MEP Jules Maaten said with so many problems plaguing the regulation, a pause was required reflect on whether or not the regulation is delivering on its intended mission.

The lack of an impact assessment for this piece of legislation – particularly with regard to R&D, technology and innovation – the confirmation of the European Commission that the January 2010 deadline will not be met, and the postponement of the nutrient profiling and food labelling debates raise the need for a time-out to reflect on the implementation of the health claims legislation​,” he said.

He added there should be, “no staggering of the publication of the EFSA health claim opinions as these would lead to a market distortion and are not in the interest of society or industry​.”

Nutrient profiling

Another MEP, Renate Sommer, highlighted the problem the health claim regulation faced while nutrient profiles remained unresolved.

Nutrient profiling determines which foods may make nutrition and health claims depending on their overall health profile but has been hotly debated, especially in regard to foods such as dairy and meat products that may be exempt from the rules.

“However, all these exemptions have resulted in a fragmentation and dilution of the current proposal exemplifying the necessity to delete the still arbitrary nutrient profiles from the health claims regulation.”

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