After the first reading in June, the likely outcome is that infant foods and formula, and foods for special medical purposes, will remain within a framework (proposal COM 353) specific to these sensitive categories. But more generally, the plenary vote illustrated the need for a strong legislative structure to protect vulnerable consumers, said European specialised nutrition industry association IDACE.
IDACE board member Roger Clarke pointed out that the European Commission's (EC's) view on which categories require separate regulation outside general food law appears to have changed. "Low-calorie and very-low-calorie products might be placed alongside medical foods," he said. "And the Commission is likely to ask the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to review sports nutrition and 12-months-plus infant milk to see how they should be regulated."
He added: "Any transition period would have to be long enough to allow EFSA to report, which might be between three and six years, during which time PARNUTS would still govern those categories."
Gluten-free is another area open to the Trialogue discussion process among EC, EP and Council. The EP supports the inclusion of gluten- free labelling in COM 353, while the EC would now prefer to see it regulated under general food law within the Food Information to Consumers (FIC) regulation.
"There are concerns that need to be addressed with each approach," said Sarah Sleet, chief executive of Coeliac UK.
"The industry would like to see the 2009 regulation on gluten-free foods based on the Codex taken in its entirety and dropped into the FIC," said Clarke at IDACE.
Sports nutrition is another category where the final regulatory structure remains in doubt. Making sports foods subject to the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation would pose many challenges. As with other former PARNUTS categories likely to be governed by general food legislation, IDACE is campaigning for them to be given a 'soft landing', with careful provision made for their particular needs.