The current statutory requirements for nutrition claims are those in the Food Labelling Regulations 1996. Apart from some general rules, they specifically cover claims for energy, vitamins/minerals and cholesterol. Guidance for claims for fat, saturates, sugar(s), salt/sodium and fibre are contained in draft guidelines based on recommendations in the FAC 1990 Report n its Review of Food Labelling and Advertising. Although these guidelines are in common use, they have never been finalised because of a lack of consensus. Further action has not been taken, initially because EU-led action was expected and later because of the emergence of Codex proposals.
The EC Commission circulated questionnaires to Member States on nutrition claims earlier in 1998 but a proposal does not seem likely in the short term. However there have been significant development sin Codex which point to the need to re-evaluate the current UK position.
The 22nd Session of the Codex adopted Guidelines for Nutrition Claims governing energy, fat, saturated fat, cholesterol, sugars and sodium in June 1998. In September the Codex Committee on Nutrition and Foods for Special Dietary Uses agreed criteria for protein, vitamins and minerals and these are to be considered for adoption at the next meeting of the Commission. Provisions for fibre are still under discussion because of different views on the definition.
Nutrition claims convey useful information to consumers. Criteria should be set at levels which help consumers who wish to do so to choose foods with particular features and which encourage manufacturers to formulate products in ways which facilitate ‘healthy eating’. It is important that the criteria adopted are justifiable from a nutritional point of view and that the terminology used is not misleading. To avoid confusion it is important to ensure consistency between claims made on imported and home produced products.
The letter therefore seeks views, in particular, on the implication of introducing:
Comments are also requested on how the rules should be promulgated (e.g. legislation, guidelines or other)
Comments are requested by 18 December 1998 [A JFSSG letter of 1 December 1998 extended this deadline until 29 January 1999].