The measures are part of a long-awaited raft of changes to rules on the labelling and content of baby milks and foods for special medical purposes under the EU specialised nutrition framework – previously known as Parnuts (foods for particular nutritional purposes).
Parnuts foods were those which have been specially manufactured to satisfy the needs of specific groups of the population and included: infant and follow-on formulas, foods for infants and young children up to three years of age, medical foods, foods for people intolerant to gluten, sports nutrition products and slimming foods.
The new streamlined rules focus only on baby milks, foods for special medical purposes and total diet replacement foods for weight control.
Remaining food products will be covered by general food rules, existing health and nutrition regulations and the Food Ingredient Regulations (FIR).
Officials say legislation passed in the European Parliament today will “protect consumers and distinguish more clearly between foods for normal consumption and foods for specific groups”.
“Infants, young children and seriously ill people are clearly not consumers like any others and it is our duty as legislator to fix stricter rules to govern, for example, the composition and labelling of foodstuffs intended for them,” said the rapporteur Frédérique Ries after the vote.
The new rules also include an exclusive list of substances such as vitamins and minerals that can be added to these foods.
Under the new scheme, the labelling, presentation and advertising of infant formula and the labelling of follow-on formula must not “include pictures of infants, or other pictures or text which may idealise the use of such formula” in order “not to discourage breast-feeding”.
However, graphic representations intended for easy identification of the formula and for illustrating methods of preparation will still be permitted.
Despite the new rules, IDACE – the European Dietetic Food Industry Association – said the legislative future for several categories of specialised nutrition remained unclear.
The organisation said in a statement: “In the coming months, the European institutions will need to adopt specific acts to ensure that the needs of each category of vulnerable consumers will be recognised, including the very specific needs of infants and young children, individuals under medical supervision, sportsmen, overweight and obese consumers, and those suffering from coeliac disease. It is furthermore critical that healthcare professionals will be able to communicate with consumers on the proper use of these products.
“IDACE calls upon the European institutions to ensure that the various follow up activities will be undertaken without delay, in order to ensure that both consumers and industry will have a more modern and suitable legal framework before the previous rules are repealed.”
There will now be a three year transition period for the rules to come into force.