Those companies considering differentiating their brand by adding vitamins, minerals or herbs, should be warned that national law throughout the European market is both diverse and confusing.
Italy has just issued a legislated list of herbs that may not be used in foodstuffs or food supplements, which may be of some help for those exporting to Italy. France also recently published restrictions concerning the fortification of foods with vitamins and minerals.
But, in general, fortification of foods remains a grey area in which little progress is being made in Brussels.
While waiting for Brussels to get its act together, tracking the requirements of individual members is the only way to be safe.
The situation with vitamins and minerals often comes down to the specific foodstuff that you want to fortify, and you will need to confer with authorities as to whether there are specified limits.
Some countries set very strict limits on levels permitted in foods. For example Italy generally works to 1 x the recommended daily allowance (RDA) maximum, Poland sets a 0.5 x RDA maximum, and France, in principle, does not permit fortification of everyday foods -- each case is subject to individual scrutiny by the authorities.
These differences are anticipated to be harmonised by the proposed Regulation, but it still leaves the question of herbs within the grey 'borderline' area between foods and medicines. For example, Sweden, Netherlands, Spain, Italy and Latvia have a negative list of herbs not permitted for use in foods (or food supplements), while Belgium, France and the Czech Republic have a list of herbs that are permitted for use, and Spain has a draft list.
Many other countries present no positive or negative lists. In these cases, an individual approach to the authorities needs to be made, requiring a lot of leg work on the part of the regulatory managers!
Controversial though it may be, further clarity in our 'united-Europe' on this particularly vexing problem would no doubt be welcome!
Jean Feord Business Manager
Leatherhead Food International.