Press Release, 6 December 2004
The following is taken from the report of the first day of the Council Meeting on Employment, Social Policy, Health and Consumer Affairs, 6-7 December 2004 - however, see also 7 December 2004 for a revised version.
Nutrition and health claims on foods
Pending the European Parliament's opinion, the Council took note of a progress report on the state of play of the examination carried out until now on a proposal for a Regulation on nutrition and health claims made on foods (11646/03).
The Council further held an exchange of views aimed at giving guidance for future work, specially focussing on:
a) the role of regulatory and other Community measures in ensuring proper information that enables the consumer to make healthy food choices, in the context of the overall Community strategy to fight public health threats, such as obesity and overweight;
b) the concept of "nutrient profiles", as an instrument to helping the consumer at making healthy food choices.
Nutrient profile would set out the conditions which a food would have to respect in order to bear a claim, so as to ensure that the health or nutrition information given through that claim is indeed contributing to the consumers' healthy diet.
Community harmonisation of rules aims at ensuring a high level of consumer and public health protection, while removing obstacles to the proper functioning of the internal market and to the free movement of foods arising from the co-existence of different national legislation.
The food industry has responded to an increased interest of consumers in the information appearing on food labels, by highlighting the nutritional value of products through claims in their commercial communication (labelling, presentation and advertising).
In order to avoid misleading consumers and to ensure the proper use of claims as a marketing tool, the draft Regulation intends to only allow health claims clear and meaningful to the consumer, subject to certain conditions and following an independent scientific assessment and Community authorisation. The person marketing the food should be able to justify the use of the claim. Claim is a message stating, suggesting or implying that a food has particular characteristics; health claim is a claim stating, suggesting or implying that a relationship exists between a food and health; nutrition claim is a claim which states, suggests or implies that a food has particular nutrition properties due to its caloric value or its nutrients (e.g. “low in fat”, “rich in vitamin C”, “high in protein”).
The draft Regulation covers foods to be delivered as such to the final customer or supplied to restaurants, hospitals, schools, canteens and other mass caterers.