The criteria for making reduced fat, sugar or salt claims under the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation are so strict that they provide no incentive for companies to reformulate products, according to the British Retail Consortium (BRC).
It has lobbied the European Commission (EC) to amend the annex of nutrition claims permitted under the regulation to address concerns, said Andrea Martinez-Inchausti, BRC assistant director for food policy.
Inchausti , who was speaking at the Healthy Foods Summit in London last month, said: "As it stands, you can only make a reduced fat claim when your reduction is of at least 30% compared to a similar product.
"For salt, a 25% reduction is required before such a claim can be made. So if you make a reduction of 20%, which for bread is a pretty significant amount, you can't talk about it," she said. "This is ridiculous and unfair. When it comes to salt, it is well known that progressive reductions of small increments need to be made in order to acclimatise consumers to the new taste."
If rivals were also making reductions in fat, sugar or salt, it was not clear what the 'benchmark' product or reference point should be when manufacturers made 'reduced' claims, she added.
"Reduced compared to what, exactly?" she said.
Retailers and manufacturers were also lobbying the EC to amend the annex of nutrition claims to include terms such as 'low-GI' (glycaemic index) and 'cholesterol-free', she added.