If dairy and meat products are to get special treatment under the nutrient profiling system enshrined in the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, soy products should as well, producers have argued.
The European Commission’s latest working document on nutrient profiles, which defines the conditions under which nutrition and health claims can be made, proposes overall thresholds for saturated fat, sugar and sodium per 100g. If products exceed the thresholds, they will be unable to make health claims.
However, following intense lobbying, the Commission has also proposed a series of ‘adapted thresholds’ for categories including oils and spreads, dairy products and meat products. These have higher thresholds reflecting their unique contribution to the overall diet.
But this would unfairly discriminate against soy-based products, which frequently competed with dairy and meat products, but did not get any special treatment, said the European Natural Soyfood Manufacturers Association (ENSA). This would mean that things like soy-based chocolate desserts would not be allowed to make a health claim, whereas a dairy-based chocolate dessert would, even though it might contain more fat or sugar.
While ENSA recognised that the Commission wanted to restrict the number of categories with adapted thresholds, some Member States including Germany and Belgium were supportive of ENSA’s position, it claimed. “We ask that soy foods be classified in the food category of the respective reference product (eg. dairy, meat).”
The profiling scheme will be discussed on Thursday (December 18) in the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (which comprises representatives of the Member States and is chaired by the European Commission).
The final proposal must be established by January 2009 - which many industry and legal sources believe is highly ambitious given the current lack of consensus over the proposals.
Separately, ENSA is still lobbying the Commission to gain the right to use the term ‘soy milk’, which is not permitted in Europe owing to a 21-year-old Regulation (1898/87) restricting the use of the word ‘milk’ to substances secreted from mammary glands.
While concessions have been made for ‘coconut milk’ and ‘almond milk’, no such derogations have been granted to soy, in part thanks to successful lobbying from the dairy industry, which claims the term ‘soy milk’ would confuse consumers and threaten dairy producers.