Big firms fear weak NHCR enforcement

Big food firms who have spent millions of pounds ensuring packaging, ads and websites are compliant with the EU Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation (NCHR), fear that the new claims regime will not be robustly enforced.

The Grocer (December 15) reported that many smaller companies were “carrying on oblivious to the legislation”, while others appeared to be taking a calculated risk by continuing to use unauthorised claims.

The food industry weekly quotes Steve Morrison, former COO of nutraceuticals firm Provexis (which secured the first ever 13.5 health claim), on the subject: “There are an awful lot of smaller companies that are not embracing the regulations. What is the value of the whole process, all the money spent and the man hours, if no one is going to police it?”

A leading food lawyer predicts meanwhile that first wave of challenges to the use of unauthorised claims in advertising will begin in early 2013.

Other food industry insiders believe that major brands will focus more of their marketing efforts on PR since newspaper articles fall outside of the reach of the new claims laws.

• Fears over weak NHCR enforcement are not confined to the UK. recently reported that Italy has set fines for NHCR breaches as low as €500 – leading to one commentator claiming that the law was “cheaper to violate than comply with”.