New EU list of health claims
By Sophie Petitjean | Wednesday 16 May 2012
On 16 May, the European Commission approved a list of 222 health claims made on foods, such as folates contribute to reducing fatigue, or active carbon reduces excess flatulence after meals. The Commission has already added these ‘tags’ – which can feature on labels for advertising purposes, or on marketing products to promote the healthy role of a nutrient – to the EU register of nutrition and health claims
John Dalli, the commissioner in charge of health and consumer policy, said: “Today’s decision is the culmination of years of work and marks a major milestone in regulating health claims on food”. He added: “Some work remains to be done and the Commission – with the needed scientific background – will now focus on concluding its work by tackling those claims which are still under consideration”.
The regulation adopted by the Commission implements Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods, and in particular its Article 13, Paragraph 3. In virtue of the aforementioned paragraph, in 2008 the member states submitted lists containing around 44,000 health claims, which the Commission has consolidated into a single list of 4,600 claims. Following an evaluation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), the Commission has approved 222 claims – representing nearly 500 entries from the consolidated list. Conversely, over 1,600 entries were rejected. The European Parliament and the Council had been consulted under the regulatory procedure with scrutiny and had green-lighted the new list before the end of March, in spite of a proposal for rejection filed by the MEPs Chris Davies (ALDE, UK) and Sirpa Pietikäinen (EPP, Finland) and Copenhagen’s objection (see
As a result, the 222 claims will be authorised throughout the EU. As from December 2012, all claims that are not authorised and on hold/under consideration shall be prohibited.
It is the responsibility of the member states to enforce the rules on health claims. The Commission has said that for the remaining claims (including health claims on botanical substances), authorisation is being finalised.
The agri-food industry, represented by FoodDrinkEurope, welcomed this new list. However, it called more clarity in the future on the information needed to fully substantiate a health claim, and called on the EFSA to improve dialogue with health claim applicants. The European consumers’ organisation BEUC also welcomed the regulation. Monique Goyens, BEUC’s director-general, said: “The food industry has long used false or exaggerated claims as a means of attracting consumers’ attention. It’s high time that such misleading and unsubstantiated claims are taken off the market and we welcome today’s publication of the list as an important step in this process. For consumers, it means that, by the end of the year, they should be provided with clear and accurate information when choosing what foods to buy and should be able to trust in the claims which appear on food products .”
This EU-wide list comes as three implementing acts: 1. a regulation establishing a list of authorised health claims about food products, excluding those that refer to reducing the risk of a disease, or its development, and to children’s health ; 2. a regulation on the refusal to authorise certain health claims on foods referring to reducing the risk of a disease and its development, and children’s health; and 3. a regulation rejecting certain health claims on foods and not referring to reducing the risk of a disease or its development, and children’s health.(1) The register is available at ec.europa.eu/nuhclaims