New Rules For The Food Sector

Author:Ms Wendy Hederman
Profession:Mason Hayes & Curran

Many consumers are pursuing healthier lifestyles by buying food that claims to have reduced fat, fewer calories, lower salt or increased nutrients. But the area of healthy food is now becoming a battleground for consumers and producers. Last May, the European Commission adopted a list of nutrition claims, following an assessment process set out in a 2006 EU regulation. After scientific assessment by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), only 222 of more than 4,000 claims were appproved. Claims that succeeded, and can be used in the promotion of foods, include: 'Reducing consumption of sodium [salt] contributes to the maintenance of normal blood pressure', provided the food satisfies certain conditions. Porridge oat manufacturers are already benefiting from having their health claims approved, so expect to see, 'Oat beta-glucan has been shown to lower blood cholesterol' on the packaging. Not so delighted are the producers of probiotics, who will no longer be able to claim that natural 'probiotic' yoghurt is good for your digestion, or that probiotic supplements boost healthy gut micro-flora. The commission rejected the "insufficiently characterised" claims, which cannot be used after the end of this year. Producers are now considering other avenues that may allow them continue to make nutrition claims for probiotics. However, now the entire register of approved claims is being challenged. In a dramatic move, a British health food association and Dutch food producers have issued legal proceedings against the commission, arguing that it used a "flawed and inappropriate way" of assessing food claims. They want the entire register of approved and rejected claims to be scrapped, and the process recommenced. In the meantime, food producers are facing several other challenges, such as broadcast¬ing authority codes, advertising standards restrictions, the debate on calorie information on restaurant menus and complying with the new Food Information Regulation (FIR) by the end of 2014. The Food Information Regulation 2011 alone will have a significant impact on food business operators at all stages of the food chain. It sets out nutritional information that must be included on food packaging, such as the energy value and the amount of fat, carbohydrates, protein, sugars and salt, with minimum font size specified and rules on placement of the mandatory information. As a result, packaging and labels will have to be redesigned for existing...

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