Top law form warns of “inconsistent” claims enforcement

A leading law firm is predicting that enforcement of the approved EU list of general function health claims will be “inconsistent” in the UK, reports The Grocer.

The 222-strong list of claims, recently rubber-stamped by the European Parliament, is likely to become law by the end of May. Six months after that products bearing prohibited claims (some 2,000 have been rejected by the European Food Safety Authority) could be stripped from shelves.

In the UK the responsibility for enforcing the new health claims regulation falls to Trading Standards and the Advertising Standards Agency (ASA).

Owen Warnock, a senior partner at Eversheds told The Grocer that Trading Standards would “shy away from taking legal action against any bar the most blatent breaches for costs reasons”. He added, however, that the ASA was likely to take a tougher line, commenting: “We will probably see more action in relation to adverts than labels.”

Natural Products editor, Jim Manson, added: “In some ways this wouldn’t be a surprising outcome. Senior figures from Trading Standards have indicated that their overriding concern is with clear cases of fraud, or where there is serious risk to public health – in other words they are not minded, or sufficiently resourced, to go after minor breaches of disputed regulations. The ASA, on the other hand, is adjudicating on an ever-increasing number of complaints about claims in advertisements – a great many originating from competitors – and seems to be taking a progressively hard-line stance on ‘soft claims’.