Food Law News - EU - 2008


FSA Consultation Letter, 4 November 2008

CLAIMS - Setting nutrient profiles under European Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006

A copy of the European Commission's Working Document on the Setting of Nutrient Profiles (dated 20 October 2008) is available on this site. See: Working Document on the Setting of Nutrient Profiles (20 October 2008).

We are seeking your views and comments on the European Commission's working documents on the setting of nutrient profiles under Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods, and the associated draft Impact Assessment for the UK. Responses are requested by: 28 November 2008

Consultation details

We would appreciate responses in advance of the Commission Working Group meeting on 21 November to inform our negotiating position in this meeting.

Background

Regulation 1924/2006 of the European Parliament and of the Council on nutrition and health claims made on foods was published in its corrected form on 18 January 2007 (OJ No. L12, 18.1.2007, p.3) and applied from 1 July 2007. This is the first piece of specific legislation to deal with nutrition and health claims and aims to provide a higher level of consumer protection as well as harmonise legislation across the EU to facilitate intra-Community trade. EU regulations are directly applicable in Member States, and a copy of this Regulation can be found at the following website address:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/site/en/oj/2007/l_012/l_01220070118en00030018.pdf

This has been amended by Regulation (EC) 107/2008:

http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2008:039:0008:0010:EN:PDF

The Regulation controls nutrition and health claims by means of positive lists of authorised claims that can be made on food together with the criteria a product must meet to use them. It also requires the European Commission to establish nutrient profiles, as part of the criteria that foods must meet to make claims. The establishment of nutrient profiles aims to prevent claims masking the true nature of foods, and so misleading consumers when trying to make healthy dietary choices.

In order to help avoid consumers being misled in this way, nutrient profiles are to be established to categorise foods on the basis of their nutrient composition. On 22 October the European Commission issued a working document on the setting of nutrient profiles based on saturated fat, salt and sugar.

Regulation 1924/2006 required the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to advise on the establishment of nutrient profiles, taking into account:

EFSA published its opinion on 31 January 2008. This is available on its website at: www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178689506673.htm

The aim of the nutrient profiles is to protect consumers from being misled where foods high in saturated fats, sugars and salt may be made to seem healthier choices when accompanied by a nutrition or health claim. For example, a food with the claim 'low in fat' may appear to be a healthy choice, but it could also be high in salt and a less healthy choice. Under Regulation 1924/2006, if a product fails the profile on one nutrient then no health claim can be made and a nutrition claim can only be made if the statement 'high [name of the nutrient that fails the profile] content' is also made. If the product fails on two or more nutrients then no claim can be made. The only exception to this is a 'reduced' claim, where the nutrient about which the claim is made does not count toward calculating the effect of the nutrient profile. For example, to make a 'reduced saturated fat' claim the product does not need to comply with the threshold set for saturated fat. However, if the product is also high in salt then the statement 'high salt content' would need to be made.

Once nutrient profiles have been established, and following a two-year transition period to allow food business operators time to adjust to the new requirements, foods that are high in saturated fat, sugar or salt will face restrictions on making claims.

European Commission working document

Following publication of EFSA's opinion, the European Commission produced a draft working paper (dated 2 June 2008) and the draft food database/test basket, which have been used as a basis for discussions at Commission working group meetings. The Agency circulated these documents to stakeholders and has provided regular email updates on the progression of these discussions. A revised version of this working paper and the draft food basket with the thresholds values inserted are avialable [see link at top of page].

Questions

You can comment on any aspect of the working paper, but we have included some structured questions below on the main areas for consideration.

1. Exemptions from the profiles

(a) Total exemptions from any profiles

Q1 Are the categories that have been suggested for total exemption from the nutrient profiles appropriate?

Q2 Are there too many or too few categories that are considered for a total exemption? Please give full reasoning and evidence.

(b) Exemptions within categories/subcategories application of adapted profiles

Q3 Are the number and type of categories/subcategories that have been suggested here appropriate?

Q4 Are there any other categories/subcategories that should be considered under an adapted profile? Please give full reasoning and evidence if suggesting further categories/subcategories.

Q5 Are you content with the proposed method for defining categories and subcategories and how products will fall within these? If commenting on the minimum content for inclusion, please give data on product composition to illustrate any issues you wish to raise.

Q6 How easy do you find it to categorise products using the proposed system?

Q7 Some Member States have raised concerns over how to categorise particular products e.g. whether fromage frais ('fresh cheese') is a cheese or a dairy dessert. Are you aware of other products that could be allocated to more than one of the proposed categories?

2. Structure of the profiles

Q8 The generic profile (which applies to the 'other foods' category in the European Commission working document) will apply to foods not falling within specific categories, where adapted profiles will apply; are you content with this proposed category-based approach?

3. Choice of nutrients

Q9 Is the choice of nutrients included in the profiles appropriate?

Q10 Do you have any comments on the inclusion of additional nutrients, either for all categories or specific categories/subcategories? Please give full reasoning and evidence if suggesting that nutrients should be removed or further nutrients should be included.

4. Reference quantity

Q11 There is a growing consensus among Member States that all profiles should be based on a per 100g basis (of food ready for consumption in accordance with manufacturer's instructions). Please give full reasoning and evidence if suggesting an alternative basis, including whether this should be across the board or only applied to specific categories or subcategories.

5. Thresholds

Q12 The European Commission has developed a testing tool which has been included as part of this consultation package. This can be used to see how variations in the thresholds for the main profile and adapted profiles would affect the claims that can be made on foods in the test basket and manufacturers' products.

Q13 We would welcome comments on the proposed thresholds for the main profile and adapted profiles. Please be as specific as you can about what foods would be affected by changing the thresholds information on the number of foods only is not sufficiently detailed to be of use in negotiations.

Q14 Are there alternative thresholds you would like to suggest for particular categories? Please give full reasoning and evidence for any suggested changes.


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