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Public Health (03-06-2005)

Commissioner Kyprianou Welcomes Council Agreement on Health Claims

Markos Kyprianou, Commissioner for Health and Consumer Protection, welcomed the political agreement on the proposed Health and Nutrition Claims Regulation at the Health Council today. In particular, the Council has backed harmonised rules for the use of health or nutritional claims on foodstuffs based on nutrient profiles, and has supported the requirement for health claims about disease reduction to be authorised based on scientific evidence.

“It is not in the interests of consumers to allow food products to promote claims about their nutritional and health benefits if such claims are false or misleading and obscure the overall nutritional value of the food”, Commissioner Kyprianou said.

The proposed Health and Nutritional Claims Regulation lays down strict conditions for the use of nutritional claims such as “low fat”, “high fibre” or “reduced sugar”. In particular, the Council’s agreement has maintained Article 4 of the draft Regulation, which includes the principle that claims should take account of the overall nutrient profile of the food. The Council also supports the requirement that disease reduction health claims such as “good for your heart” would have to be scientifically proven, and authorised by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), before they could be used.

The Commission adopted the Health and Nutrition Claims proposal in July 2003. On May 26th 2005, the European Parliament held its first reading vote on the draft legislation and made a number of amendments to the proposal. While the Commission accepted a number of these amendments in part or in whole, the Commission rejected the deletion of article 4 on nutrient profiles and the amendment replacing the authorisation procedure for health claims with a notification procedure. The Commission considers that these elements are central to the proposal and could not accept amendments that would weaken its fundamental objectives. The Health Claims Regulation will now undergo a second reading by both the Parliament and Council, and is expected to be finally adopted in early 2006.

Poor nutrition and obesity are among the main causes of many avoidable non-communicable diseases in Europe. As the number of overweight and obese adults continues to rise in the EU, so too do the incidences of diseases such as type-2 diabetes, certain cancers, heart disease and orthopaedic problems. Likewise, diets which are high in saturated fat and salt increase the risk of diseases such as cardiovascular disease and hypertension.