Brussels bogeyman blasted

By Elaine Watson

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims regulation, European union, European parliament, European commission

More than 40% of suppliers say new health claims regulation will damage their business

Two out of five manufacturers and ingredients firms believe the proposed nutrition and health claims regulation from the European Commission will adversely affect their business if it is adopted in its current form.

An online poll conducted by Food Manufacture reveals that 43% believe the regulation will damage their business. A third of respondents disagree, while the remainder are unsure.

The result comes as the industry awaits the final text of the controversial proposal, which should reflect a common position between the European Parliament and the Council and will have its second reading in Parliament later this year or early 2006.

While European health and consumer protection commissioner Markos Kyprianou claims the regulation will flush out the cowboys and protect consumers, many suppliers fear it will strangle innovation and unfairly keep smaller firms out of the market.

Another concern is whether suppliers bungling their applications and having claims rejected will block off the market for everyone else, says David Hare at health sector lobbyist the Whitehouse Consultancy.

“If a company makes an application that is rejected because its supporting data isn’t up to scratch it goes on the Commission’s ‘rejected’ list. If another company comes along later with more robust data to back up the same claim, it might be stuffed.”

With companies estimating the cost of submitting dossiers to support a claim at between £20,000 and £100,000, the regulation could also be disastrous for smaller firms, said one supplier of functional ingredients. “Smaller companies will not be able to conduct the required scientific research to deliver the clinical data because of their limited financial resources.”

In the meantime, ingredients suppliers are lobbying to get as many claims as possible on the Commission’s ‘generally accepted’ list of generic health claims that will not need to go through the prior approvals process.

Dr Susan Lawlor, clinical nutritionist at Glanbia Nutritionals, says: “The uncertainty is the critical point, especially for the innovations process.”

Suppliers developing products with a low-glycaemic index (GI) are particularly concerned, as the regulation does not include any reference to GI, despite the fact that companies will be able to apply to make associated claims about hunger management.

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