Italy ponders mandatory supplement warning labels – and health claims?

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

Food supplement regulations being considered in Italy may force certain products to carry warning labels, and health indications may become mandatory too, a European Commission committee has heard.

The draft decree relates to substances other than vitamins and minerals and a February meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) heard that the Italian government was considering actions with nine nutrients warranting initial focus.

They were Cimicifuga racemosa Nutt; Citrus aurantium L.; Ginkgo Biloba L.; Hypericum Perforatum L.; amino acid mixtures; ramfied amino acids; bioflavonoids; creatine and Monascus purpureus (red yeast rice) monacolin.

While not clarifying exactly why these products required warning labels, the committee discussed how such warning labels may fit within existing legislation such as the 2002 Food Supplements Directive (FSD) and the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

Under the FSD there is no requirement to refer to nutritional and health indications – that is a matter for the NHCR or the 2004 Traditional Medicinal Herbal Product Directive (THMPD).

“[The Italian decree] lays down labelling requirements for warnings and mandatory indications of nutritional or physiological effects attributed to specific food supplements containing herbal extracts and other substances with nutritional or physiological effect,”​ SCFCAH recorded.

Member state representatives at the merting agreed that warning labels could be appropriate if the available science backed their necessity, but questioned how mandatory nutritional or physiological effects could be implemented within existing EU legal structures.

“Some member states emphasised that indication of nutritional or physiological effects is not required under [the FSD]for food supplements containing vitamins or minerals,” ​SCFCAH notes revealed.

“Furthermore, it was stressed that the notified draft providing for mandatory indication of the physiological or nutritional effects would result in such mandatory indications falling outside the scope of [the NHCR] as the core principle of that regulation is that nutrition and health claims are made on a voluntary basis.”

With this in mind the committee concluded it was “questionable”​ that a member state could enforce such claims, as they would more than likely, “circumvent the rules laid down in [the NHCR].”

SCFCAH said it would produce an opinion on the matter by 23 April.

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