Implementing an EU health claim converting scientific language to consumer language
The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (No. 1924/2006) aims to facilitate informed food choice among consumers within the European Union (EU) while removing misleading, ambiguous and false claims from the EU market. However, several factors act as obstacles to its success. These include the standard of conclusive cause-and-effect evidence required by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which has in the main focused on health benefits associated with isolated constituents. Health claims have thus been authorised that may be confusing to the consumer. As well as reviewing some of the challenges, various approaches to improving communications with consumers are discussed, including possibilities that work both within and outside the scope of the Regulation. Finally, priority areas for modification of existing approaches to interpretation and implementation of the Regulation are highlighted.
Considerable variations in the level and quality of science used to substantiate health claims used in the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods, beverages, food supplements and other foodstuff across the European Union (EU) have historically created inequalities and barriers to trade for food and natural health product manufacturers and suppliers. Where such science is not plausible, consumers are also at risk of being misled. In 2006, the EU passed into law the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR) (No 1924/2006) that aims, in part, to prevent false, ambiguous and misleading health claims being presented to consumers. Additionally, the NHCR aims to improve the functioning of the single EU market, and was conceived as one of several policy goals in the EU’s 5-year Strategy on Nutrition, Overweight and Obesity-related Health Issues initiated in 2007 (1).
In an effort to achieve agreement on the criteria for scientific substantiation of health claims, the text of the NHCR, along with subsequent guidelines and approaches, drew from two main sources. One was the Codex Alimentarius Guidelines for Use of Nutrition an ...