Under the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation, brand names along with logos and pictorial representations can be construed as health claims, but Unilever says this doesn’t apply to Slim.Fast.
“We don't make any precise claim about the rate and amount of weight loss consumers will experience when using this brand, and therefore this regulation does not apply,” the company said.
If however the brand name was deemed to be a health claim, it may receive a positive airing from the European Commission given the approval of an article 13.1 meal replacement weight management claim by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in February.
The regulation states brand names that do not comply with the regulation must be changed before January 19, 2022.
The issue was raised in a BBC story yesterday where Helen Darracott, a regulation expert with the UK-based trade group, the Proprietary Association of Great Britain, suggested the Slim.Fast name could be a health claim.
"The actual name of the product is a health claim in effect - it slims and it does it quickly - and therefore it's a claim which talks about the rate of weight loss so this will actually fall foul of the regulation," she said.
Behind the system
Unilever – whose Pro.activ plant sterol-based, cholesterol-lowering range has won health claims in the EU – said it supported the regulation.
“Unilever believes that food producers should provide consumers with clear and accurate information about the functional benefits of any product,” it said.
“As such, we strongly support the role that EFSA is playing in developing clear guidance on the claims that can be associated with particular ingredients. It is clear that the scientific standard has been set high for nutrition and health claims in the EU.”
At the time of the positive meal replacement opinion in February, Unilever said: "EFSA has concluded that there is solid scientific evidence on the cause-and-effect relationship between meal replacements for weight control and reduction in body weight, and maintenance of body weight after weight loss,” said the spokesperson.
“This confirms the conclusions of over 40 clinical studies that Unilever’s Slim.Fast brand has conducted. Official approval of these claims would enable products in the Slim.Fast portfolio that comply with the required conditions to make a claim that relates these meal replacement products to effective weight management.”
EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) found meal replacements could be effective in two ways:
- reduction of body weight
- maintenance of body weight after weight loss.
The opinion found causality had been demonstrated for these two affects in food items that contain a maximum of 250kcal per serving and comply with specifications laid out in the European Union directive on energy restricted diets for weight loss.