Revision of the laws governing specialist food products like sports foods, infant foods and gluten-free foods is set for a final vote in the European Parliament in December or January, 2013, with the leading industry group broadly welcoming the passage.
Roger Clarke, of the European Dietetic Food Industry Association (IDACE), told us final committee meetings with members of the European Council and European Parliament had affirmed a final draft, although exact details have yet to be published.
But it is thought the multifarious draft law will keep to its purpose of reclassifying some specialty foods under general food laws, with certain aspects like children’s milks and sports foods to be resolved after European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) reports are delivered, probably in 2013.
“The devil is always in the detail but there is broad agreement across the principle areas although a range of issues remain to be dealt with,” Clarke said. "For instance will the existing PARNUTS legislation continue until the implementing date or until the end of the 3-year transition period."
All the various specialist foods currently fall under the existing PARNUTS (foods for particular nutritional purposes) regulation. The PARNUTs food sector represents between 1 to 2% of the European food market and is pegged at around €24bn.
Clarke welcomed the fact a distinction has been made between formulated gluten-free foods and those that are naturally occurring – which would allow ongoing marketing to celiacs.
He was also encouraged by the fact foods for underweight and sick babies and those on low-calorie diets will have separate legislation to cater for them.
Once the specialist foods laws enter EU lawbooks, there will be a three year transition period (plus shelf time) for products to come into line.
In a statement IDACE congratulated the progress with Clarke noting: “…we look forward to the various scientific reports from the European Food Safety Authority, Commission reports, as well as the upcoming delegated and implementing acts, which should provide further legal certainty for our product sectors and which should protect vulnerable consumers.”
“We also remind the institutions that amendments to general food law will be required to accommodate categories of foods that will unfortunately fall out of the scope of the existing PARNUTs Regulation, in order to continue to take into account the particular nature of these products which are used by consumers with specific dietary needs.”
The PARNUTS Directive entered EU law many years ago and has been up for revision because the EU wants to, “provide better information to consumers” .
The new laws abolish the notion of dietetic foods as these have been cannibalised by functional food offerings administered by other legislation including gluten-free foods, sports foods and slimming products.
Frederic Vincent, from the European Commission's Health and Consumer division, added after publication: "The main objectives of the proposal - abolition of concept of dietetic foods, limitation of the scope - were preserved."
"The only concession, from the institutional point of view was the acceptance of an Annex with substances that may be added to those foods already in the Regulation and its update by delegated acts, instead of by implementing acts."