European consumers have the right to know whether some food products which claim to have beneficial impact on their health actually have such effect. The European Commission will present by the end of the year a list of permitted health claims on food products for all substances other than the so-called "botanicals," after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) published today a sixth and final set of opinions on the matter.
The Commission welcomes the publication of the sixth set covering 35 health claims on food products (also known as "Article 13 claims"). This publication marks the conclusion of EFSA's assessment which started in October 2009.
"Ensuring accurate and reliable information on food labels is key to help consumers make healthier choices and strengthen their empowerment," Health and Consumer Policy Commissioner John Dalli said. "The assessment process, conducted by EFSA so far, is a vital step towards the implementation of the health claims Regulation and I thank EFSA for its valuable input to this difficult and challenging task that has no precedent anywhere else in the world." he added. "Now our priority is to adopt, as soon as possible, the list of permitted Article 13 claims," Commissioner Dalli concluded.
The Commission has already started preliminary work with Member States and aims to present the final measure before the end of the year.
Once the list of permitted health claims is adopted and fully operational, EU consumers will be assured that all health claims on the EU market are substantiated by science and are not misleading. This will help consumers choose a healthier diet. The list's adoption will also facilitate the work of enforcement authorities in ensuring compliance with the Regulation and will guarantee fair competition among operators.
The Claims Regulation aims to ensure a high level of protection for consumers, by facilitating the choice of products for a varied and balanced diet which is a prerequisite for good health. To do this, claims must not mislead consumers: they must be accurate, truthful, substantiated by science and adopted onto a list of permitted health claims. EFSA (European Food Safety Agency) is the body that assesses the science used to substantiate health claims.
At the beginning of the process, the Member States submitted, in total, to the Commission more than 44,000 health claims. The Commission consolidated these into a list of approximately 4,600. The six sets of opinions published by EFSA cover about 2,760 health claims of the approximately 4,600 submitted for scientific advice (1550 claims on "botanicals" have been place on hold by the Commission).
Due to the large number of health claims received and the delay in submissions by stakeholders to Member States, the deadline of 31 January 2010, stipulated in the Health Claims Regulation, for the adoption of a list of permitted health claims could not be met. With the aforementioned review of the adoption process the deadline for EFSA to finalise its evaluation of all claims, other than botanicals was extended to the end of June 2011