Healthy, or "functional" foods, can often carry health claims as well as ingredients that extend beyond vitamin and minerals, to botanicals and other complex substances, which has the potential to lead to labelling confusion.
To meet the training needs of legal and regulatory professionals, Mark Tallon, managing partner of the Food Law firm Legal Foods, has launched a new online course tailored to the legal demands of this industry.
“Functional foods come with a unique set of regulatory and legal challenges,” he explains, specifically noting novel foods, borderline medicines laws, and health claims regulation.
"Layer this onto product specific laws surrounding fortified foods, food supplements, and food for specific groups and you have the requirements for staff or consultants for tailored training for a specific skill set."
Dr Tallon, who carries a doctorate in nutritional biochemistry and higher degrees in food law, EU law, and Intellectual property law, adds that there are many courses on food law, but the vast majority are about food safety and hygiene or general labelling rules, yet almost none provide guidance on borderline substances, botanicals and the specific issues faced with health foods.
He believes his new course is the first course in the EU to offer both the legal and regulatory training for the labelling of functional foods.
For individuals and businesses
Initially the course was designed for their clients who wanted to have their staff trained on EU law and specifically the labelling of products for the EU and UK. However, Dr Tallon explains the need for 24/7 access prompted a full redesign of the in-person course to meet the new working culture.
"Following the pandemic companies really have not returned to in-person meetings and in many cases have downsized offices. The result is flexible / hybrid working model of home and in-office contact.
"This means companies still want to be able to train their staff to ensure they have all the skills needed to ensure legal product compliance. However, they want this to be accessible to employees in a platform that fit into their work and lifestyle commitments. This is where the Online Food Law Training Academy comes in."
As such, the course - comprising 500 PowerPoint slides and over 20 hours of footage - is accessible 24/7 as easy to access training videos, giving flexibility for food businesses.
"It also provides the entrance point for those looking to start or develop a career in food law and labelling without having to spend years moving from department to department or company to company to understand the legal requirements in this sector.
Dr Tallon explains the course is built around eight key modules from the fundamentals of EU law and its institutions to novel and medicinal foods as well as the practical skills of assessing real products.
"Of course, we cover all the usual issues around the mandatory and voluntary requirements of food labelling but we need to push beyond theses basics to meet the challenges of lawfully labelled functional foods."
He adds that a unique aspect to the course is its provision of practical skills, providing students with knowledge on how to assess novel foods, what makes an ingredient medicinal, as well as being able to use databases such as TRIS, Additives, RASFF, the health claims register, and others.
“Food businesses really don’t care about the detail of food laws and regulations they simply want to know ‘how do I put my products on the market legally’, and as such we have built into the course training on real product examples.
"The test of a good regulatory or legal professional is not the information they hold in their head but having the skills to find the information specific to the job at hand. That means not only understanding the rules, guidance and issues of compliance for a specific product but how to find the information to give more clarity on legal interpretation. That means giving practical advice as well as legal theory."
The course runs over 12 weeks giving students time to fit 1-3 modules a week into their schedule. The course has a dual pathway design of a continued professional development (CPD) certification or students can take the ‘Certificate in Food Law’ exam. The first course runs from 1st March and will run four times a year.