Food firms alliance calls for end to “piecemeal” approach on claims

Over  350 food and supplements firms from across Europe are calling for an end to the EU’s “piecemeal” approach to the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.

In a letter to the president of the European Commission the companies argue that the current adoption of article 13.1 generic (function) health claims in batches distorts competition in the market and creates unnecessary and disproportionate costs for manufacturers, due to successive label changes. The companies say the approach also creates confusion in the market as non-harmonised claims co-exist with harmonised claims “with unequal conditions of access to markets across the EU”.

In their letter the companies warn the EC president, José Manuel Barroso, that the current approach could have a “potentially devastating impact on the industry”, pointing out that many of the claims being forced to undergo re-evaluation have been accepted on national markets on products used by consumers for decades.

“The Regulation did not provide for the adoption of these health claims in batches, in fact it specifically envisaged one consolidated community list, and our immediate concern is that this piecemeal approach would severely distort competition. It is neither acceptable, nor proportionate, as it creates significant and unnecessary costs for manufacturers in an already difficult economic environment,” says Philip Chapelle, director of Research and Development at French company Arkopharma, and one of the many signatories to the letter.

The letter has been coordinated by the European Health Claims Alliance (EHCA), an alliance of companies from across different sectors of the food and nutrition industry formed specifically to address urgent industry concerns over 13.1 claims.

• Article 13 of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation provides for the approval of generic health claims (function claims) based on generally accepted scientific evidence, following the consultation of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). If accepted, these claims are to be included in a positive Community list of claims permitted for use in the labeling and advertising of foods in the EU.

It was expected that this Community list would be published in January 2010, but the deadline has passed, with EFSA choosing to publish its opinions on about 4500 claims in batches rather than at the same time. EFSA delivered its first batch opinions on 523 claims on 1 October 2009, its second batch of opinions on 416 claims in February 2010, and its third batch of opinions on 600 or so claims is expected in July.

Signatures to the EHCA-coordinated letter can be registered at: