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Nutrition: EU Action

Volume 492: debated on Wednesday 20 May 2009

To ask the Secretary of State for Health what proposals he has put forward at EU level to minimise the cost to UK industry of implementation of the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation. (276129)

The Food Standards Agency (FSA), speaking on behalf of the United Kingdom, has made a number of proposals in relation to the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation aiming to achieve consumer protection through proportionate controls and help minimise the cost to UK industry. Highlights of these proposals include better definition of the scope of the regulation, focusing only on beneficial claims in a commercial context; a solution to dealing with trade marks that are also claims with effective transitional arrangements; elimination of disproportionate prohibitions of claims about general well-being, references to psychological and behavioural functions, slimming and weight control, recommendations by health charities and claims aimed at children.

The UK argued for a process to reduce the burden of authorisation of health claims already on the market, and for new claims pushed the European Commission to meet its duty to make available technical guidance and tools to assist small and medium sized businesses in the preparation and presentation of applications for assessment of health claims by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). More recently, the UK proposed better transparency of EFSA's scientific assessment of health claims and secured a commitment from the Commission to improve access to the procedure.

Guidance to interpretation of the regulation from the Commission has helped industry understand how to apply some of the more ambiguous areas of the regulation and this grew from the FSA's own detailed guidance to compliance, which is used widely across the European Union.

We have also been successful in achieving appropriate transition periods to allow industry to adapt to the new regulations and we continue to champion better regulation as unforeseen issues arise during the implementation of this complex measure.