Speaking at the European Health Claims Alliance (EHCA) event, the EC’s Unit Head of Food Law, Nutrition and Labelling described Monday’s EC decision to pass all EFSA article 13.1 opinions into the law in one mega-batch by early 2012 and simultaneously remove botanicals from the process as a “win-win” situation for industry, risk assessors and risk managers alike.
“The Commission has paid great attention to concerns about market distortion due to opinions being adopted in series and the treatment of botanicals,” he said. “This will give more time to consider problems.”
Mathioudakis said no decision had been taken about how botanicals would end up being treated, but guidance found in other regulations such as the Food Supplements Directive and the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive would play a part. In particular, the history of use data may gain greater prominence than it has in the botanical opinions EFSA has issued so far.
“There is much that needs to be considered in this area,” Mathioudakis said.
For the EC to meet its 2012 deadline, EFSA’s health claims panel will need to meet its own – now set for June 2011. If this happens, products will have until mid-2012 to comply with the new consolidated claims list or face local enforcement authority action.
But he acknowledged EFSA’s workload has been significantly reduced by the removal of the herbal submissions which accounted for about 40 per cent of the initial submission 4000+ submission list.
Mathioudakis confirmed there would be about 500 opinions published in EFSA’s next batch, due the week beginning October 11, this month.
In another area, Mathioudakis highlighted omega-3 claims as a problem area that remained under discussion among member states to ensure the widest possible conditions of use, particularly for DHA claims which the fish oil lobby believes should not be extended to plant sourced omega-3 products which contain DHA but at lower levels.
Mathioudakis affirmed that claim wording flexibility would continue to account for likely consumer understanding and regional and linguistic differences within the EU’s 27 member states.
Economic Impact Assessment
In another presentation, Graham Brookes, managing director at GBC Ltd highlighted an economic impact assessment of the nutrition and health claims regulation commissioned by the EHCA that found negative EFSA opinions would strip more than €1bn from an EU supplement market worth between €8.2bn and €8.6bn retail in 2009.