The model, which is being developed by DG Sanco (the European Commission’s directorate general for health and consumers), was supposed to be completed in January 2009, but as with all aspects of the health claims Regulation, the timetable has slipped.
Designed to prevent firms from making health claims on foods that are high in fat, salt or sugar, nutrient profiling is strongly supported by consumer groups.
However, many food manufacturers think the approach is unfair, as it could prevent nutrient-rich but high-fat/salt products such as cheese from making health claims.
It could also spell the end of ‘functional’ chocolate, as claims about the benefits of cocoa polyphenols or probiotics will not be permitted on chocolate unless products are extensively reformulated.
One dairy industry source said the latest draft of the model that had been circulated to the trade was "moving in the right direction", but that many dairy firms remained opposed to nutrient profiling in principle as it reinforced the erroneous impression that there were ‘good’ and ‘bad’ foods.
There are also disagreements over whether the system should compare all foods or judge them on a category-by-category basis, as well as whether to judge foods by portion size or by weight. Many firms also argue that certain products should be excluded altogether.
Food and Drink Federation director of food safety and science Barbara Gallani told FoodManufacture.co.uk that there were still big areas of uncertainty, particularly in relation to so-called 'traditional foods', which could still be excluded from the profiling system.
She added: "Our concern at the FDF is that the system is science-based, and that political discussions that are not evidence-based do not creep in at the last minute."