MEPs do not oppose Community list
By Sophie Petitjean | Thursday 22 March 2012
The European Parliament’s Committee on the Environment, Public Health and Food Safety (ENVI) has decided not to oppose a proposed regulation establishing a list of approved health claims about foodstuffs. During a vote, on March 21, the ENVI committee rejected a resolution, proposed by Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) and Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, Finland), opposing the list of health claims that has been drawn up by the European Commission based on advice from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). Just before the vote, the Christian Democrat group had promised to back the resolution opposing the list.
Health claims are information featured on food labels for marketing purposes, which emphasise the nutritious benefit of certain ingredients. In July 2003, the European Commission proposed introducing EU authorisation procedures in order to guarantee that health and nutrition claims featured on the packaging or in the presentation and marketing of foodstuffs are clear, precise and based on scientifically proven evidence. Under the resulting regulation (No. 1924/2006 on health and nutrition claims about foodstuffs), adopted in 2006, the Commission was supposed to approve a Community list of authorised health claims, using requests from member states and opinions from EFSA (44,000 requests, consolidated in a list of 4,600 claims), before 31 January 2010. At the beginning of 2012, the Commission published a list of 222 approved health claims, consolidated in a series of regulations (see background).
In line with EU procedure, the list will only be considered adopted when the Council has formally decided not to oppose the proposal. It has already been approved by the Committee of Permanent Representatives (Coreper, 7 March) and was to be approved by a qualified majority of ministers during the Transport Council, on 22 March. However, the Belgian delegation had indicated its intention to abstain from the vote, while the Danish delegation has announced that it will oppose the adoption of the regulation, saying that the list of health claims is not compatible with the aim or the content of the directive on which it is based: “Several claims featured on this list do not take into account the principle of consumer understanding (Article 5, Paragraph 2 of the regulation) and could result in confusion and consumer error. Moreover, the list contains a series of claims which pose a threat to consumer safety,” said Copenhagen.
Once the regulation has been adopted, all health claims not included in the list will have to be withdrawn from the market.
The European Consumers’ Organisation BEUC welcomed the result of the ENVI committee’s vote. Director-General Monique Goyens said: “Today’s vote is a significant step in the right direction. It will stop consumers from being misled by unsubstantiated, exaggerated or untruthful claims about foodstuffs. Only genuine health claims will be allowed to remain on the market”.
The agri-food industry, represented by Food Drink Europe, also welcomed the vote, which came after a “long and complicated” procedure. Nonetheless, regarding future requests, the organisation reiterated its previous call for improved dialogue and follow-up procedures between those submitting requests and EFSA. This would provide greater certainty for the food industry when investing in research and development and innovation.
The list is available at
www.europolitics.info > Search = 311222
Once the regulation has been adopted, all health claims not included in the list will have to be withdrawn from the market
In line with Regulation no. 1924/2006, the Commission put forward three proposals: 1. a regulation establishing a list of authorised health claims for foodstuffs other than those referring to the reduction of the risk of illness, as well as to development and infant health; 2. a regulation concerning the refusal to authorise certain health claims about foodstuffs and also referring to the reduction of the risk of illness, as well as to development and infant health; and 3. a regulation rejecting certain health claims about foodstuffs and not referring to the reduction of the risk of illness or to development and child health.
The Commission also put forward a proposal to amend the measures in Annex II of Regulation (EC) No. 1333/2008 as regards the conditions of use and the use levels for aluminium-containing food additives.
In November 2011, it proposed a regulation amending the original regulation (No. 1924/2006). This proposal was rejected by Parliament, on 31 January.