Ingredients companies, brand owners, trade groups, member state regulatory bodies and other groups have been scrambling to become compliant and understand the grey areas that exist in the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) such as the status of B2B communications.
“Only permitted health claims featuring on the list and those which are still under consideration by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) can be used on food packaging across the EU,” the European Commission said.
“The list of permitted claims will protect EU consumers against misleading claims and will ensure a level playing field for food business operators. The priority now is to finalise the review of all health claims submitted for evaluation to EFSA which were put 'on hold' when establishing the list of permitted health claims.”
No black and white
The Brussels-based trade group and ardent NHCR critic, the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA), has today issued a 68-page guidance to assist companies in the health claims area that is freely available for download on its website.
“Given the complexity of the legislation and the room for interpretation left, it is not possible in all cases to provide black and white answers,” it states.
“This guidance therefore intends to offer to food operators the necessary elements for making a reasoned judgment when using a specific claim and to develop sound arguments to support the approach chosen.”
December 14 EU healtUK advertising watchdog and EU trade group issue health claims guidance
Steve Mister, the president and CEO of the US Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN) told us the situation in Europe was very much on his group’s radar.
“Our members have been reviewing their product labels and are prepared to fully comply. Even as our companies are preparing to comply with this new regulation, we will continue to believe that the process that EFSA used discounts a great deal of valuable nutrition science.
“Moving forward, we will continue our efforts to convince EFSA to accept a broader range of evidence in support of health claims for our products.”
Stricter, more specific
In the UK, the Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) made it clear that today heralds a much stricter era for healthy food marketeers.
“14 December is the day for the key changes to the regulatory framework for food advertising to come fully into force,” the agency said.
“Although there are still interim procedures and transitional periods in place, there will be significant changes to how the ASA approaches health claims made in advertising for food products from this date onwards.
“The onus is on advertisers to ensure that they are aware of any particular transitional period which may apply to any specific claims they may wish to make.”
It added: “Any general health claims in an ad will need to be accompanied by a specific authorised health claim. ‘General health claim’ is likely to have a fairly wide interpretation; it will not just apply to claims such as ‘healthy’ and ‘good for you’, but also claims like ‘superfood’.”
“This requirement is stricter than the previous position when advertisers were required to hold evidence for such general claims because it requires that the specific authorised health claim is stated in the advertising copy.”