When food business operators market their products, they wish to be able to highlight the particular beneficial effects of the products in relation to health and nutrition on the product label or in its advertising. Union rules on nutrition and health claims have been established by Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 as a legal framework for such product-related communications. The Regulation started to apply as of 1 July 2007.
The rules of the Regulation apply to nutrition claims (such as "low fat", "high fibre") and to health claims (such as "Vitamin D is needed for the normal growth and development of bone in children").
The objective of those rules is to ensure that any claim made on a food’s labelling, presentation or advertising in the European Union is clear, accurate and based on scientific evidenceL. Food bearing claims that could mislead consumers are prohibited on the EU market. This not only protects consumers, but also promotes innovation and ensures fair competition. The rules ensure the free circulation of foods bearing claims, as any food company may use the same claims on its products anywhere in the European Union.
There are different procedures managed by the Commission for the various types of claims, with regard to their authorisation. A public EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims lists all permitted nutrition claims and all authorised and non-authorised health claims, as a source of reference and so that full transparency for consumers and food business operators is ensured.
The Commission put forward the proposal for the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation on 16 July 2003: Proposal N° COM (2003) 424.
Prior to that, a discussion paper was published on the Commission's website in order to gather comments and specific suggestions on these claims. The aim was to include a spectrum of stakeholders as broad as possible in drawing up the proposed legislation. For the discussion paper see: Nutritional Claims and Functional Claims Discussion Paper .
The Commission services received comments from more than 90 stakeholders:
The European Parliament held its first reading vote on the Commission's proposal on 26 May 2005.
On 3 June 2005, EU health ministers unanimously endorsed the Commission's proposal, including the provision for nutrient profiles and the authorisation procedure, during a first reading vote at the Health Council. The common position can be found here .
The European Parliament second reading vote took place on 16 May 2006, paving the way for final adoption of the new Health and Nutrition claims Regulation. Read the press release and MEMO issued following the Parliament vote.