UK Government in consultation with nutrition industry in event of no-deal Brexit

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

The UK Government have opened up consultations with the nutrition industry regarding proposed changes to regulations in the event of a no deal scenario after March 2019.

The consultation​ and online survey​, prepared by the Government’s department of health and social care, covers legislation relating to nutrition and health claims and the addition of vitamins, minerals, and other food substances.

Other topics of discussion include food for particular nutritional uses and food supplements with regard to the functions of the European Commission and European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

“We have now agreed in principle the terms of the UK’s smooth and orderly exit from the EU, as set out in the Withdrawal Agreement,”​ the Government said.

“We have also agreed the broad terms of our future relationship as set out in the outline Political Declaration.

“But nothing is agreed until everything is agreed - and as such it is the duty of a responsible government to continue to prepare for all scenarios, including the unlikely event of a no-deal.

“Therefore, the proposals outlined in this consultation, henceforth referred to as ‘fixes’ would only come into effect in the unlikely event that the United Kingdom and the European Union are unable to conclude negotiations satisfactorily.”

Industry ramifications

The proposed legislation is set to affect manufacturers and retailers of pre-packaged foods and food supplements; infant and follow-on formulae; processed cereal based foods and baby foods and food for special medical purposes.

Other manufacturers and retailers affected include those involved in creating total diet replacement products for weight control and food products with nutritional or health claims in commercial communications.

“We assume that these businesses will have an acute interest in our approach to amending the regulatory frameworks that govern their practices,”​ the Government stated.

“However, as no significant changes are being proposed we estimate that businesses will only have to spend a short amount of time familiarising themselves with the new procedures.

“Although the approach aims to minimise impact on businesses, there may be ongoing costs for businesses currently operating in the UK as they will need deal with additional UK-only regulation if they currently sell in the EU/EEA.

“Nutrition and health claims authorised by the UK will not be valid on the EU market, and vice versa. This would increase administrative burden on companies as they would have to submit claims to both the UK and the EU if they wished to make the claim in both areas.”

Proposed changes to Nutrition & Health Claims

In the consultation document, a series of proposals have been put forward for Nutrition and Health Claims, in particular changes to Regulation (EC) 1924/2006, which currently governs how firms accurately highlight their product’s health benefits.

The proposals include establishing implementation rules for applications dealing with authorisation of health claims.

Further regulation seeks to establish a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health.

Scientific advisory functions conducted by EFSA will be transferred to the UK Nutrition and Health Claims Committee (UKNHCC), a new committee responsible for the scientific substantiation and advice to UK administrations on new nutrition and health claims made within the UK post exit.

Vitamins, minerals, and other substances

Regarding proposed regulation governing vitamins, minerals, and other substances, the consultation is looking to add additional legislation to Regulation (EC) 1924/2006.

These include implementing rules for the application of “power to prohibit, restrict, or place a substance under scrutiny”.

Further regulation implementing rules for the application of Article 16 of Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 on the addition of vitamins and minerals and of certain other substances to foods was also suggested.

In discussing the proposed changes to Nutrition and Health Claims and vitamins, minerals, and other substances, the document said, “Proposed fixes would mean that processes for food businesses and consumer protection remain substantially similar to the existing arrangements.

“Fixes will be predominantly technical in nature, simply changing EU-specific references so that they remain relevant when the UK is no longer a member State, whilst EU functions outlined above will be transferred to an appropriate UK authority.”

This consultation closes at 11:59pm GMT on 14 December 2018.

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