Regulation EU 2016/1413 was published in the Official Journal on 25th August, amending the conditions of use for the two authorised health claims relating to meal replacements for weight control.
Under the new law, if products carry a claim that ‘substituting one [or two] of the main daily meals of an energy restricted diet with meal replacements contributes to weight loss’, they need to have an energy content of between 200 and 250 kcal per portion. This has changed from 200-400 kcal previously.
Products must also meet the nutritional composition criteria set out in the regulation, for example, a fat content of less than 30%, a protein content of between 25 and 50%, and at least 30% of the amounts of nutrient reference values of vitamins and minerals per meal.
Positive reception by industry
SNE, the association representing manufacturers of specialised nutrition products in Europe, said it welcomed the adoption of the regulation.
“SNE considers that the regulatory changes which have been finalised by the new EU regulation continue to appropriately reflect the specific profile of these products. Carefully formulated and nutritionally balanced, they will guarantee consumers with the same level of essential nutrients despite the important energy restriction in the diet - and therefore help overweight or obese people to lose or maintain their weight,” Aurélie Perrichet, executive director designate of SNE, told NutraIngredients.
Diet food and supplement manufacturer Forza also expressed support for the new law. The company’s research & development manager, Sam Conebar, told this publication: “The change in the regulation is positive, as it is clearly aimed at ensuring consumers are provided with products that are able to safely replace meals and form part of a healthy weight control programme. Lowering the maximum number of calories permitted in each serving of a meal replacement will contribute to the effectiveness of its overall purpose - to contribute to a reduction in body weight.”
Three years for reformulating and relabelling
There is a three year transition period (until 14 September 2019) to allow companies time to adapt to the new requirements.
During this period, SNE said the industry would roll out in parallel reformulation and relabelling programmes to adapt the labelling and composition of their products to comply with the new regulation.
“Individual companies can now start the work aimed at ensuring compliance. This will ensure that in three years’ time, all meal replacements for weight control will be compliant with the new EU rules,” said Perrichet.
She added that SNE was working on guidelines to help its members implement the new rules.
No impact for Forza
At Forza, Conebar didn’t seem to think there would be anything to do in terms of reformulation and relabelling.
“It will not impact on our business since our meal replacements currently contain 204 kcal per serving and fall in line with both the old and new regulations. However, it confirms to us that our decision to create a meal replacement with a low calorie content was in fact a good one, and that we share the same values on this subject as the law makers,” he said.
He continued: “It is actually quite rare to see meal replacements for weight control that contain calories upwards of 250 kcal, especially in high street stores, so I do not think that it will affect too many other brands. Any companies that are affected will need to ensure they can reformulate their products to achieve all of the required nutritional values for less calories, which is not always an easy task.”
Background to regulatory change
The current regulatory changes resulted from the repeal of the legislation on PARNUTs (food for particular nutritional uses) and slimming foods (2009/39 EC and 96/8 EC) in mid 2016, and the adoption of Regulation EU 609/2013 on foods for specific groups in June 2013.
Slimming foods fell outside the remit of Regulation EU 609/2013, which meant they would be covered by general food legislation.
Howeve, SNE was convinced that slimming foods needed “…an adapted framework that recognised the specific nature of these products, and was able to protect consumers against products that do not offer the necessary assurance for their appropriate and effective use in the vulnerable populations that the previous legislation provided for”.