Food and drink manufacturers are burying their heads in the sand when it comes to the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, regulatory experts have claimed.
A draft version of the industry's 'wish list' of permitted health claims under article 13 of the Regulation was circulating among trade associations, said Leatherhead Food International's regulatory expert Kath Veal. However, she said many manufacturers had no idea what was on it.
"Article 13 claims are those supported by generally accepted science," she said. "While your ingredient or claim might well be on one of these lists, the claim might not be worded in the way you would like, so you really need to get involved if you want to influence the process."
An examination of 'superfoods' highlighted the difficulties facing manufacturers grappling with the Regulation, she added: "The phrase 'superfood' is probably an implied health claim, in which case you will only be able to use it if it is accompanied by an approved health claim. However, we won't know for some time which, if any, of the claims about superfoods will be approved."
Unhelpfully, the phrase 'contains antioxidants', which many manufacturers used on their products, was not on the list of permitted nutrition claims, she added. "So we're hoping that will make it onto article 13. But the bottom line is, nobody knows."
European food trade association the CIAA said it had been "totally swamped" with inquiries from anxious manufacturers about the article 13 list.
The CIAA, which is collating a 'wish list' of claims manufacturers would like to see on the list, said devising wording that pleased everyone was "incredibly difficult". Sabine Nafziger, CIAA director of consumer information, diet and health, said: "Everyone wants to word claims about the same ingredient in a different way.
"Take soluble fibres. We have had scores of companies individually contacting us with claims they want on the list ... Even when you take out the duplication we're still talking about 400-600 claims."