European Parliament

May 18, 2006 05:20 ET

Health and Nutrition Claims on Food - MEPs Adopt New EU Rules

LONDON, UNITED KINGDOM--(CCNMatthews - May 18, 2006) -


MEPs have this week adopted new EU food labelling rules which will stop manufacturers from making nutrition and health claims for their products unless there is scientific evidence to back up their claims. The main aim is to provide clear definitions for when a food can be described as 'low fat', 'high fibre' or 'rich in vitamins'

Among the key elements approved yesterday by the European Parliament:

- Any health or nutrition claims must be scientifically substantiated;

- Nutrient profiles will be established by the European Commission, as a basis for any health claims - these profiles concern, for example, levels of sugar, fat or salt in foods;

- A clear timetable for applications to the European Food Safety Authority for approval of any health claims;

- Setting up a register of health claims authorised.

Brand names existing before 1 January 2005 will be exempted for 15 years.

Fresh foods such as fruit, vegetables and bread are excluded from the terms of the new Regulation.

This was the European Parliament's second reading of the proposed Regulation. Following informal talks between MEPs and the Council of Ministers, the text adopted this week is likely to become law - it will take effect 6 months after publication in the Official Journal of the EU, probably in early 2007.

CONTACT: Simon Duffin, Press Officer, European Parliament UK Office - tel 07786 060531, email:

For further details, see:


Excerpts from Monday's debate (15 May 2006) in Strasbourg

Commissioner Kyprianou: These two regulations state that, if economic operators voluntarily use claims or other marketing tools to sell their products, they have to be truthful and accurate and the claims must be scientifically based...The health claims regulation will prevent consumers from being misled by unsubstantiated or misleading claims. At the same time, it will provide harmonised rules allowing products to circulate freely in the internal market

Jill Evans (Plaid Cymru, Wales): The Greens/EFA Group has supported the system of authorising claims through an effective and efficient process. We have supported clear labelling, consumer involvement, banning health or nutritional claims on alcoholic drinks, as others have mentioned, and many of the other items on which we will be voting tomorrow. This new law will make a big difference to people's everyday lives, because food is a very political issue. What can be more political than people being able to choose what food they eat? People have a right to be confident that labels on food mean what they say. It is not just a question of honesty on the part of food companies; it is also a question of health

John Bowis (Conservative, London): We are still legislating in the dark when it comes to nutrient profiling, and that is not a good way of legislating. We do not know how this will be achieved; we do not know how EFSA will run it. We have to rely on the experts sorting it out after this measure has left this Parliament, and whatever they sort out will not come back to this Parliament for approval, so that is not good legislation. Nevertheless, I think we can say that what consumers want - and they are the only vested interest that matters - is confidence in the terminology of claims, such as low salt, high in polyunsaturates, and so on. We want to make sure that negatives are not concealed behind positives and we want to make sure that the whole picture is honestly portrayed. Ultimately, any claim must stand up in court based on the science which purports to support it...We have removed some of the health claim anomalies - not least, may I say, on light ale, which no more claimed that people would become light than a cough sweet claims that people will cough.

Linda McAvan (Labour, Yorks & Humber): I welcome this legislation because we need it. Just look around the shelves in supermarkets and see what is claimed on so many products, including an increasing range of sweets and confectionery - some of those claims are frankly absurd. We have heard again tonight people in this House claiming that we do not need this legislation, that it is about the nanny state. However, what on earth can be wrong with asking manufacturers who make health and nutritional claims to give the scientific evidence for those claims?...We seem to forget that without European standards we will have a plethora of national standards, and that is not good news for business. This is good for business, it is good for consumers and we should welcome it.

Tom Wise (UKIP, Eastern Region): Mr President, this is just another piece of legislation that seeks to increase the authority of the EU over Member States. We already have Directive 2002/46/EC, which requires safe upper levels for food supplements. However, those limits have not yet been published. A better example of EU incompetence would be hard to find. Despite this, the EU juggernaut carries on with its overbearing legislation, which only serves to destroy small businesses and removes freedom of choice from the consumer.

LINKS are available from our website at

These point to a set of resources including:

- EP report by Adriana POLI BORTONE MEP
- full text of the debate in the speakers' original language
- text adopted by Parliament
- legislation amended
- summary of procedure in Legislative Observatory
- other legislation in force: Consumers: Protection of Health and Safety
- UK MEPs contact details and websites.

For quotes from UK political parties represented in the European Parliament:

- Conservatives: Peter Wilding, tel. 0032 473 861 762,

- Labour: Jenny Marra, tel. 0032 479 790053,

- Liberal Democrats: Dave McCullough, tel 0032 47 232 5602,

- Plaid Cymru / SNP: Steven Cornelius, tel. 0032 473 56 09 67,

- Greens: Helmut Weixler, tel. 0032 475 67 13 40,

- UKIP: Gawain Towler, tel. 0032 496 510 711,

Please click on the link(s) provided.

For further information, please reply to Simon Duffin

Contact Information