The much-debated and delayed aspect of the nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) – which aims to establish criteria about which foods can carry health messaging – re-entered the news recently when German Member of the European Parliament, Renate Sommer, proposed deleting the article from the NHCR.
This occurred during discussions about another regulation – the Food Information to Consumers Regulation (FICR) – where the European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee voted in favour of amending nutrient profiles.
It is now set to be voted on by the entire European Parliament in mid-May.
“It will depend on the legal compatibility of the two texts (FICR and NHCR) but we have no issue if it is deleted as we feel it is largely irrelevant to food supplements anyway,” EHPM regulatory affairs director, Lorène Courrège, told NutraIngredients.com this morning.
If the motion is successful it would mean deleting article 4 from the NHCR which deals with the conditions of use of nutrition and health claims, themselves due to have been implemented by January 19, 2009.
The article states that factors to be considered in establishing nutrient profiles included:
(a) the quantities of certain nutrients and other substances contained in the food, such as fat, saturated fatty acids, trans-fatty acids, sugars and salt/sodium;
(b) the role and importance of the food (or of categories of food) and the contribution to the diet of the population in general or, as appropriate, of certain risk groups including children;
(c) the overall nutritional composition of the food and the presence of nutrients that have been scientifically recognised as having an effect on health.
But with FICR not expected to be finalised until the middle of 2011, it is not expected that any change deletion would occur for some time, if it transpires at all.
Those in favour
Richard Wood, regulatory affairs manager at Nestlé UK, told our sister publication, Foodmanufacture.co.uk, that he thought it unlikely that nutrient profiles would be scrapped.
“I think profiling will happen,” he said. “I doubt [the decision] will get through the plenary session. It has to be cleared by the [European] Commission, the Parliament and the Council of Ministers. The Commission is in favour and the member states are generally in favour.”
Italy and Germany form the main opposition to nutrient profiling, Wood said. “Germany has a strong sugar confectionery industry and I can understand why it would want it [nutrient profiling] deleted. Otherwise, there’s a strong chance that high sugar products would not be able to make any nutrition claims.”
There have been suggestions in some quarters that some foods and food supplements will be exempt from nutrient profiling criteria. These may 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