Members of the European Parliament were due to vote on the report yesterday, but the vote has been delayed until September due to an overlap with wider European negotiations on better law making, Robert Bray, head of unit for the European Parliament’s Committee on Legal Affairs (JURI) told us.
This wider project is part of the European Commission’s aim to ‘do less regulation, better’ and is separate from JURI’s self-assigned REFIT report led by German MEP Sylvia-Yvonne Kaufmann, which seeks to make EU law “lighter, simpler and less costly”.
One paragraph in the REFIT report called for a review of the “serious and persistent problems” with the implementation of the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) as well as the possible deletion of nutrient profiles from it.
The paragraph was adopted by a JURI vote last month, much to the disappointment of the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC), which had been lobbying against the scrapping of nutrient profiles.
The paragraph in question
“Calls on the Commission, in view of the serious and persistent problems which arise in the implementation of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods, including problems of distortion of competition, to review the scientific basis of this regulation and how useful and realistic it is and, if appropriate, to eliminate the concept of nutrient profiles; considers that the aims of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006, such as ensuring that information which is provided concerning foods is true and that specific indications are given concerning fat, sugar and salt content, have now been attained by Regulation (EU) No 1169/2011 on the provision of food information to consumers.”
Bray said there had been discussion last week among the rapporteur and shadow rapporteurs about whether the issue should be put to a split vote – something which could be requested by a political group or at least 40 members when one vote covers more than one issue. This could mean the two issues within the paragraph are voted on separately.
However the conclusion of the talk was that the overall vote on the REFIT document should be postponed until after the summer recess.
Bray said Kaufmann had been assured it was "nothing personal".
He said there had been some debate on whether such sector-specific issues should have featured in the report at all, given this was not the original aim.
Whilst REFIT does not hold legislative weight per say, its outcome would send a strong message to the Commission on what Parliament thinks should be done next.
Nutrient profiles were written into the NHCR to prevent products high in fat, sugar and salt from making claims and attaining a 'health halo'.
An initial deadline of 2009 was set for their creation, but six years on and there has been little movement as debate has raged over appropriate nutrient thresholds and whether certain foodstuffs should be exempt such as juices which are naturally high in fructose.