Commission Memo (MEMO/03/249), 3 December 2003
Health and Consumer Affairs: Results of the Council meeting, Brussels, 1-2 December 2003
Ministers approved a progress report (see below) prepared by the Council secretariat on the Commission's proposal for a Regulation on nutrition and health claims made on foods (see IP/03/1022). As consumers have become increasingly concerned about what they eat and how this affects their health, the food industry has responded by providing more detailed nutrition labelling and often making claims about the beneficial effects of certain foods. The existing EU rules on labelling and nutrition labelling, which do not define conditions for the use of nutrition claims and do not allow health claims to be made, are often not properly enforced. Consumers can therefore be misled by claims that have not been properly substantiated. The proposed Regulation would give legal security and address these issues by specifying the conditions for the use of nutrition and health claims, prohibiting certain claims and scientifically evaluating the use of claims in relation to the nutritional profile of foods. No food product will as a consequence be prohibited but claims on food products will have a true meaning for the consumer.
Copy of the Council's Progress Report
Proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods - Progress report
The main objectives of this proposal are to achieve a high level of consumer protection by ensuring that they receive appropriate information and that the claims are duly assessed, to improve the free movement of goods within the internal market, to increase legal security for economic operators, to ensure fair competition in the area of foods and to promote as well as protect innovation in the area of foods.
On the basis of the first discussions, it appears however that additional examination by the Working Party will be necessary to address the outstanding issues with the attention they deserve.
Pending the finalisation of their internal consultations, some delegations maintained at this stage a general scrutiny reservation. One delegation also had a parliamentary reservation, while another pointed out that the proposal would involve a change of its constitution, as the proposed mechanism of authorisation of the claim seems to be in contradiction with the freedom of expression which its constitution guarantees.
Some delegations noted that the scope of this proposal should be examined further, since it covers (labelling, presentation and advertising of foods to be delivered as such to the final consumer) a very broad field. It was also noted that some definitions, notably of "nutrient" and "other substance", should be refined.
Some delegations had, at this stage, some difficulties to endorse the concepts of Article 4 on the restrictions on the use of nutritional and health claims, particularly as regards the "nutrient profiles", while others considered that this could be clarified
Article 11, which deals with the implied health claims, was also subject to a number of reservations/remarks by delegations as it is considered too vague and at the same time too prescriptive.
Some delegations also considered that the mechanism of authorisation (Articles 14 to 17) should be in line with similar procedures (such as the ones for the authorisation of genetically modified food and feed). Some considered that the procedures should be proportionate to the objectives of the text, notably as regards of the use provisions for the use of languages. Furthermore, some delegations suggested additional claims as well as technical modifications of the claims in the Annex to the proposal.