Foodlaw-Reading

Dr David Jukes, The University of Reading, UK

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Last updated: 15 January, 2021

Nutrition and Health Claims

Providing access to EU and UK legislation

On this page:

Summary

After many years of discussion and dispute, EU controls were adopted in 2006 by Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. This started to apply from July 2007 but elements became effective at various later dates and some aspects are still not operating.

The regulation provides the following definitions:

The Regulation contains an Annex which lists the permitted nutrition claims and the conditions which must be met if they are to be used. Subject to the provisions of the Regulation, these are generally available for use by any food meeting the stated conditions. Only authorised health claims can be used. The types of claims which can be authorised are set out in Articles 13 and 14 of the Regulation and it provides the procedures for gaining approval and for the establishment of a Register of Health Claims.

Since all authorised claims had to be substantiated by an assessment of the scientific evidence supporting the claim (performed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA)), the process of adopting the initial list of authorised claims took a considerable time. A large number of claims relating to 'botanicals' have still not been assessed. Another difficulty has been the provision, included in Article 4(1) of the Regulation, for the adoption of 'nutrient profiles' which would prevent the use of claims on foods considered to have an unhealthy profile - no profiles have yet been adopted. An overview of the process is shown in the following figure:

For a larger version of this figure, see: Figure: Claims

Following the departure of the UK from the European Union, the controls applied in the UK (excluding Northern Ireland)from 1 January 2021 are still based on those of the EU but adapted as separate UK legal requirements. In particular, there is now a Great Britain Register of Nutrition and Health Claims. Approval of new claims will be subject to an assessment performed by a UK based scientific committee. For more details, see UK Legislation below.


EU Legislation

Consolidated Text: A copy of the consolidated text incorporating the amendments is available. See: Consolidated Text (December 2014)

Derogations:

For more details about the legislation, supporting documents, approvals and procedures see: EU Commission - DG Health and Food Safety - Nutrition and Health Claims

The Commission has established an on-line EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims which shows:

  • Permitted nutrition claims and their conditions of use
  • Authorised health claims, their conditions of use and applicable restrictions, if any;
  • Non-authorised health claims and the reasons for their non-authorisation;
  • EU legal acts for the specific health claims;

EU Legislation Authorising Health Claims

[Note: the following lists do not include Regulations refusing to authorise claims]

Article 13 Claims - Function claims

This article provides for the approval of health claims which describe or refer to:

(a) the role of a nutrient or other substance in growth, development and the functions of the body; or
(b) psychological and behavioural functions; or
(c) without prejudice to Directive 96/8/EC, slimming or weight-control or a reduction in the sense of hunger or an increase in the sense of satiety or to the reduction of the available energy from the diet.

These may be approved following a simplified procedure if they are

(i) based on generally accepted scientific evidence; and
(ii) well understood by the average consumer.

The first list of authorised claims (containing 222 claims) was published in 2012 and has been amended to add additional authorisations.

A consolidated version of Regulation 432/2012 is available. See: Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 (August 2017).

The Register shows a total of 235 authorised Article 13 claims (of which 6 are restricted due to proprietary data) and 2,005 non-authorised Article 13 claims (August 2020)

Note: Function claims for 'botanicals' have not yet progressed and remain outside the scope of the approved register of claims. Approximately 1,500 such claims were submitted for approval.

Article 14(1)(a) - Reduction of disease risk claims

These are defined as 'any health claim that states, suggests or implies that the consumption of a food category, a food or one of its constituents significantly reduces a risk factor in the development of a human disease'. These may be approved following the application of the standard approval process. These are being approved and listed in individual Regulations as follows. Additional Regulations provide details of rejected claims - they are not listed here.

The Register shows a total of 14 authorised Article 14(1)(a) claims and 27 non-authorised Article 14(1)(a) claims (August 2020).

Article 14(1)(b) - Claims referring to children's development and health.

These may be approved following the application of the standard approval process. These are being approved and listed in individual Regulations as follows. Additional Regulations provide details of rejected claims - they are not listed here.

The Register shows a total of 12 authorised Article 14(1)(b) claims and 45 non-authorised Article 14(1)(b) claims (August 2020 ).


UK Legislation

Brexit: Prior to the IP Completion Day (31 December 2020), the legal requirements given in the EU Regulations listed above still applied to the UK. Since IP Completion Day, the EU Regulations above have been incorporated into UK legislation but with amendments to correct deficiencies. Information on this is given below. For more details of the process of incorporating EU legislation into UK law, see the separate page: UK Food Law: EU Legislation as Amended for the UK. Provisions for the enforcement of the controls (originally the EU Regulations but now as amended) have been provided in the UK Regulations listed below. For Northern Ireland, EU rules still apply.

Guidance and official support (from Department of Health and Social Care):

EU Legislation with links to legislation.gov.uk: amended for application in the UK:

Note: The numerous EU Regulations authorising, as listed above, or refusing to authorise health claims have also been adopted into UK legislation (and amended) but are not listed here. Search the legislation.gov.uk site for individual regulations and check SI 2019, No. 651 and SI 2020, No. 1476 for amendments.

Enforcement

Requirements for implementation and enforcement are provided separately for the four parts of the United Kingdom.


Guidance

This guidance was issued by the Department of Health in 2011 - it is recommended that it is used with caution and in conjuction with the main web page shown above under 'Guidance and Official Support':

Nutrition and health claims - Guidance to compliance with Regulation (EC) 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods

General Principles on Flexibility of Wording for Health Claims (A document agreed by Member States in 2012 and provided by the Department of Health)

Guidance on comparative nutrition claims (published by the UK's Food and Drink Federation in January 2018)


This page was first provided on 14 July 2016
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