Rick Pendrous

Is this a match made in health claims hell?

Related tags Health claims Nutrition

Is marketing compatible with good food science? I ask this having recently attended two conferences on the new European Nutrition and Health Claims regulation at which the two appeared to be pulling in opposite directions.

On the one hand you have regulators in this case scientists on the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA's) panel on dietetic products, nutrition and allergies trying to be consistent in their assessments of dossiers submitted for health claims approval. But they have come under huge flak for rejecting swathes of submissions.

Then you have the food and drink industry in the EU, which is striving to get claims accepted so that firms can make a return on the huge investments they have made in developing products that provide recognisable (albeit difficult to prove) health benefits.

But, while the scientists within these companies are naturally disappointed their submissions have not been accepted, they are trying to improve dialogue with EFSA to make sure they get it right in future. In contrast, the marketers are all talking about what they can get away with under the new rules.

If they're not suggesting that, rather than health claims, firms focus on nutritional claims which they consider to be a softer target and more likely to yield financial benefits they are sailing very close to the wind with suggestions about the use of wording and imagery on packs that doesn't actually make a claim, but 'implies' as much.

I suspect at some stage after the new rules take effect probably around November 2012 Trading Standards will be looking for a high-profile example to prosecute in order to establish some case law in this legal minefield.

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