The group said it supported the legal action just mounted by the Dutch association, Natuur-en Gezondheidsproducten Nederland (NPN), and the UK Health Food Manufacturers’ Association (HFMA), but castigated them for not lobbying European Parliamentarians harder.
“The legal action might never have become necessary, had Europe's trade associations publicly joined us and other interested parties in consistently lobbying for a Parliamentary veto of the proposed health claims list at the time,” ANH-Int said.
That vote made law about 1500, article 13.1, general function health claim rejections along with only 222 approvals, provoking the NPN-HFMA legal action.
The pan-European trade group they are members of – the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM) – is waiting to hear whether the EU Ombudsman agrees that the regulation is being implemented unfairly and disproportionately before it joins any legal action.
Further scrutiny is being brought to the NHCR by two German professors who had a water-dehydration claim rejected in early 2011. They have also mounted an EU court action on various grounds including the very concept of disease risk factor reduction that underpins the regulation and is designed to prevent the medicalisation of health claims.
“…root and branch overhaul…”
ANH-Int said it stands, “firmly behind the HFMA/NPN legal action” that seeks to annul the article 13.1 list and may be heard by the General Court of the European Union by year’s end. But it added that, “unless EFSA performs a root and branch overhaul of its flawed scientific assessment procedures, any new permitted list will be just as inadequate as the current one.”
The group was more encouraged by NPN work with the Dutch government that was allowing Dutch companies to ‘interpret’ approved claim wording, rather than being forced into any literal translation of the approved English claims.
So a NHCR-approved claim that said:“Substance X helps to maintain normal brain/psychological function” could end up as, “Substance X supports memory” or “Substance X helps to maintain concentration”.
“Ironically enough, this more lenient approach also will make the claims more accurate, and less potentially misleading to consumers,” ANH-Int observed.
“The prospects of a successful legal challenge as well as an intelligent interpretation by a government, albeit one well recognised for its progressiveness, offer a glimmer of hope that the full horror of the EU Register of health claims will escape the 500 million or so citizens of Europe.”