The list of permitted health claims was due to be published in January 2010, with regulation due to follow this autumn.
But the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), which is in charge of examining the scientific backing of the claims, is expected to finalise its assessment of submitted dossiers only by the end of 2011.
According to the Commission, the delays are due to late submissions and the large number of submitted dossiers – an initial 44,000 submissions which were later consolidated into a list of more than 4,600.
"To amend the process in a pragmatic way," the EU executive now plans to establish the list of permitted claims in two steps.
EFSA is being asked to finalise its evaluation of all remaining claims - other than so-called 'botanicals' - by the end of June 2011, after which the Commission will follow-up with legislative measures.
The claims regarding the botanicals – such as aloe vera, echinacea, ginseng or ginger and green tea extract – will be considered only after June 2011.
The original regulation, adopted in 2006, foresaw the progressive adoption of the approved list and the progressive removal from the market of health claims that are not backed by science.
But following concerns about potential market distortions between operators whose claims are rejected and those for which assessments are still pending, the list of permitted claims will now be published at once, the Commission said.