Technically, these claims are already illegal as they are not on the Regulation's annex of permitted nutrition claims, which came into force on January 19 this year.
However, UK trading standards officers have been advised to adopt a ‘pragmatic’ approach to enforcement given that several claims are still under consideration for inclusion in the annex.
But this state of legal limbo cannot continue indefinitely, Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of food safety and science Barbara Gallani told Food Manufacture.co.uk.
“The original aim was to get this issue clarified before January, but we’re now into July and it still hasn’t been resolved.
“We have a health claims working group meeting in Brussels today [comprising representatives of the European Commission and Member States involved in the health claims Regulation], so we will be pushing for an agreement, but there is no official date by which this has to be resolved.”
No added salt
UK manufacturers in particular want the nutrition claim ‘no added salt’ to be included on the annex, she said.
“Some products only exist because of their ability to make the ‘no added salt’ claim. Not including this in the annex would mean that products such as tinned sweetcorn in water, which contains trace elements of naturally-occurring sodium [as it takes in minerals from the soil as it grows], will no longer be able to make the claim ‘no added salt’.
She added: "This prevents the manufacturer communicating the benefits of a product canned in water over the same product canned in brine, presenting a real barrier to consumers seeking to choose products that could help control or reduce their salt intake.”
Other products that would be affected if ‘no added salt’ is not permitted as a claim include breakfast cereals such as muesli, potato-based savoury snacks and seasoning blends.
FDF members are also keen for 'X% less fat/sugar/salt' claims to be added to the annex to reflect their reformulation efforts, said Gallani.
As the Regulation stands, firms are permitted to make 'reduced' fat/salt/sugar claims, but the conditions of use mean they can only use them if they make significant (25% or 30%) cuts, which manufacturers say provides little incentive to make smaller, incremental changes.