The European Parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee yesterday (21 March) rejected by a 15-vote margin a resolution opposing the EU’s proposed list of health claims.
The vote paves the way for all health claims not approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) to be removed from the market under the EU’s nutrition regulation. All 27 EU countries are obliged to follow the rules.
Industry and consumer groups hailed the vote to uphold the permitted health claims.
Monique Goyens, who heads the European Consumer Organisation BEUC, said the vote “will stop consumers from being misled by unsubstantiated, exaggerated or untruthful claims about foodstuffs. Only genuine health claims will be allowed to remain on the market.”
FoodDrinkEurope, representing the food and beverage industry, said in a statement that harmonised standards “would bring certainty to the consumer, provide information on the beneficial properties of nutrients in food and help consumers to make informed food choices.”
Twenty-two committee members backed the unsuccessful resolution introduced by British MEP Chris Davies (Alliance of Liberals and Democrats for Europe) and Finland’s Sirpa Pietikäinen (European People’s Party). Thirty-seven opposed it with one abstention.
Supporters of the resolution had argued that the labelling requirement was disproportionate and placed undue burden on EFSA in authorising the health benefits made on food labels.
Before the committee vote, the Alliance for Natural Health, which lobbies for alternative medical approaches, launched a campaign supporting the resolution, saying that restricting approved health claims on food would limit consumer choice and confine scientists in carrying out nutritional research on products sold in the EU.
Robert Verkerk, scientific director of the British organisation, criticised the labelling scheme for “trying to apply a one-size-fits-all scientific approach to the complex, changing and inevitably incomplete science of nutrition.”
EU officials have been keen to stress that the permitted labels would not lead to a ban on specific products but only of claims of them considered misleading or unsubstantiated.