Manufacturers are increasingly concerned about how health claims will be scrutinised under the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, given the regulators' tight timetable.
The Food and Drink Federation (FDF) said there were now "real concerns about whether individual claims will be given adequate attention" as scientists at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) faced the prospect of assessing the efficacy of up to 2,000 claims within a year.
Owing to the huge number of claims submitted by Member States, the assessment process at EFSA cannot even begin until the Commission has filtered the list down to a more manageable number, which will take until June at the earliest, according to EC officials. This itself was causing anxiety, claimed FDF food law and labelling manager Michael Hunt: "On what basis is the EC filtering claims? There is a real lack of transparency about the whole process."
Dr Diederick Meyer, manager for scientific and regulatory affairs at prebiotic ingredients firm Sensus, said he was sceptical about EFSA's ability to get the job done within its legal deadlines. "Many of the problems could have been avoided had the Commission given applicants clearer guidance in the first place," he added.