A clutch of widely-used nutrition claims including phrases such as '10% less fat’ have been in a state of legal limbo as regulators decide whether to allow them on pack.
Technically, such claims are already illegal in the EU as they are not on the Regulation's annex of permitted nutrition claims, which came into force on January 19 2010. But now that this deadline has passed, there is no official date by which additions to the list must be finalised.
In the meantime, 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.
No progress since the summer
Food and Drink Federation (FDF) director of food safety and science Barbara Gallani told Food Manufacture.co.uk that there had been no progress on the nutrition annex since the summer.
“No discussions have taken place for the past few months, but we have had some indication that discussions might start again in the New Year. We expect ‘X% less claims’ and ‘no added salt’ claims to be discussed at the same time, sometime in the New Year.”
UK food manufacturers are particularly keen for 'X% less fat/sugar/salt' claims to be added to the annex to reflect their reformulation efforts, because as the Regulation stands, reduced fat/salt/sugar claims are only permitted where firms have made significant (25% or 30%) cuts, which manufacturers argue provides little incentive to make smaller, incremental changes.
They are also anxiously waiting for the Commission to finalise the controversial nutrient profiling model outlined in the Regulation, which is designed to prevent firms from making health claims on foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar.
The model, which is being developed by DG Sanco (the European Commission’s directorate general for health and consumers), was supposed to be completed in January 2009, but as with all aspects of the health claims Regulation, the timetable has slipped.
* Many of these issues will be discussed at Front of Pack 2011 - a new conference covering the latest developments in the health claims Regulation, Food Information Regulation and Novel Food Regulation, plus a wide range of food labelling issues from sustainable palm oil to traffic light labels, carbon footprints and nano labels.
To find out more about Front of Pack 2011 (London, March 10, 2011), click here.
To find out more about Reformulate 2011 (London, February 8, 2011), click here.