UK industry welcomes MEPs’ claims list objection

The UK health food trade has welcomed a decision by MEPs on the influential ENVI Committee to raise an objection to the European Commission’s plan for an approved list of general function health claims.

The MEPs are asking for more consideration of what should be included in the list.

ENVI committee* members Sirpa Pietikäinen (Finnish, centre right MEP – pictured), Chris Davies (UK, liberal MEP) and Pavel Poc (Czech, socialist MEP) raised the objection based on their concerns that the approach being taken to the substantiation of Article 13.1 claims is “pharmaceutical in nature, ignoring the fact that nutrients are foods rather than drugs”.

The European Commission recently submitted a draft list of approved claims to the Parliament for scrutiny. If the Parliament votes in favour of the list — which currently contains just 220 approved health claims — it will be deemed approved and published during May 2012. The 2,500 health claims rejected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) would then be banned within six months

“We have reluctantly decided to object to this list of permitted health claims as, although we do not have an issue with what has been included on the list, we want the European Parliament to seriously consider what should have been included on this list,” said Pietikäinen. “A consequence to the positive list is the publication of the so-called Union Register of rejected claims, which the European Commission has said it will publish at the same time. This negative Register could include a number of claims that should have been approved but have not due to an inappropriate and disproportionate evaluation procedure. Such is the case for fibre, which claims to help maintain normal bowel function and regularity – a well acknowledged claim.”

“The European Ombudsman is currently looking into whether the health claims regulation has been appropriately implemented by the European Commission,” said Pavel Poc, “we would like that the permitted list of claims is seriously considered and that the Union Register of negative claims is not published until we have at least heard the opinion of the European Ombudsman on this matter.”

Commenting on the development, the executive director of the HFMA, Graham Keen, told Natural Products: “We wholeheartedly welcome this initiative taken by these MEPs. We have suggested for some time that we need MEPs to be the voice of reason and common sense in order to correct the situation regarding health claims, where we are confronted with the immediate prospect of a vast number of claims we have known and used for many years, sometimes decades, being totally prohibited from use on all forms of consumer communication as early as late Autumn this year. The Commission has turned its back on our industry and its legitimate concerns, so we have to hope that our parliamentary representatives in Europe can turn this situation around.”