Is there greater freedom in health care professional health claim comms?

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Health care professionals Health care

Are your comms with health care professionals commercial in character?
Are your comms with health care professionals commercial in character?
Food companies may have greater freedom in communicating the healthful benefits of foods and supplements to health care professionals (HCPs) than exist under the nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), according to a legal journal.

Writing in European Food and Feed Law,​ Sebastián Romero Melchor and Liesbeth Timmermans, from Food Law Consultants in Belgium, suggest that communications with health care professionals, “do not have to comply with the stringent requirements of the NHCR.”

“This opens a possibility to disclose information about recent studies that may or may not have a beneficial health effect, studies which, in the frame of the authorization procedures established by the NHCR, may not receive the EFSA stamp of generally accepted scientific evidence. Due to their educational and professional background, HCPs are better positioned to interpret the information made available to them.”

But Melchor and Timmermans warn that communications stemming from HCPs must retain a certain purity or risk coming under the remit of the NHCR as “commercial communications”.

“…in communications on the health properties of foodstuffs originating from HCPs, the promotional purpose is the key to determining their ​commercial character and the ensuing application of the NHCR.”

“Such promotional character is ​per se excluded in case of communications compiled in an independent manner, particularly provided for no financial consideration, but will be caught by the NHCR if they are, in fact, a disguised from of advertisement.”

The lawyers said any financial transaction, or communications agreement with the HCP would, “point the way towards the existence of a commercial communication”.

They suggested a range of factors that could lead to a communication being deemed commercial in nature These included:

  • The “…the unequivocally laudatory tone of the article”
  • Naming specific products
  • Naming specific ingredients
  • Simultaneous publication in other media
  • “The absence of journalistic relevance”
  • Reference in food company’s own communications

“A case-by-case analysis is therefore indispensable before any attempt at classification,” ​they concluded.

Source: European Food and Feed Law

‘”But what is it, Doc?” – Health Care Professionals under Regulation 1924/2006’

Volume 5, Number 5

Authors:​Sebastián Romero Melchor, Liesbeth Timmermans

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