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EVALUATION ON THE USE OF CLAIMS: NUTRIENT PROFILES STILL PERTINENT AND A NEED FOR HARMONIZED RULES ON BOTANICALS

Jun 04, 2020

In the conclusion of the REFIT review of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation 1924/2006, the Commission argues that nutrient profiles are still relevant and essential to meet the Regulation’s objectives. Nutrient profiles are compositional criteria which need to be met in order for foods to bear a nutrition or health claim. This limitation aims to avoid that foods high in fats, sugar and/or salt create a false impression over their overall nutritional quality by emphasizing on their positive characteristics.

The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation required the Commission to establish nutrient profiles by 2009, but the initiative met with fierce opposition from the Member States. The Commission Report asserts that nutrient profiles can further promote food reformulation initiatives and can be aligned with the nutrient profiling used for front-of-pack labelling schemes, hoping that industry and member states will now be more receptive towards their introduction. Accordingly, the Commission will further consider nutrient profiles for the use of nutrition and health claims.

The report further addresses the current deadlock on the authorization of botanical health claims. Since the introduction of the Nutrition and Health Claims, not a single application for a health claim on the physiological effects of plant substances has seen a favourable outcome. This results from the weighty evidence requirements set by the European Food Safety Authority. The Authority requires data from human efficacy studies demonstrating the relationship between the consumption of the constituent and the claimed effect for the substantiation of health claims.

Instead, the evaluations of (botanical) health claims were put on hold, which provided for a provisional solution allowing that the claims submitted for authorization can be used provided they meet the general principles and the conditions of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.

This however raises concerns on the safe consumption of plant substances as well as the credibility of the non-validated claims.

The Commission now indicates it will further explore the options for a specific, harmonized EU legal framework on the use of plant substances, specifically considering the safe use and claim substantiation based on traditional use. The Commission hints that a positive or negative list of plant substances (used in foods) at EU level would create more clarity and benefit the marketing and selling of foods containing plant substances.

Commission Staff Working Document (SWD(2020) 96 final): Evaluation of the Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods with regard to nutrient profiles and health claims made on plants and their preparations and of the general regulatory framework for their use in foods - link

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