The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) has said that it is about to undertake a consultation period for the European Community's proposed new regulation to govern food products in relation to nutrition and health claims.
According to Alan Reilly, acting FSAI chief executive, the new regulation, when it comes into force in 2005, will ensure that consumers will be able to make more informed choices about the foods they purchase. The Regulation, when in place, will ensure that any product packaging with nutrition or health claims will only be permitted following a formal approval and verification process.
The FSAI has announced a consultation process available on its website to permit individuals with an interest in the area as well as industry to comment on the proposed EU Regulation. As this Regulation directly affects the public, the FSAI is particularly keen to hear from consumers. Details of the Regulation and the process to communicate views are available on www.fsai.ie.
The EU proposal regulates the information about a food product and the nutritional value that appears on its label, a ruling that is expected to have a significant impact on food processors throughout the EU. Only nutrition and health claims that are in conformity with the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods provisions of this Regulation will be allowed on the market.
The proposed rules ensure that foods bearing nutrition and health claims are labelled and advertised in a truthful and meaningful manner and specifies the conditions for these claims. It prohibits certain claims and requires the scientific evaluation of claims in relation to the nutritional profile of foods. The FSAI says that no food product will, as a consequence, be prohibited but claims on food products will have a true meaning for the consumer.
"There is an increasing interest among consumers in their diet and the composition of foods that they are eating, and with the rise in the number and type of claims appearing on food labels, it is important that information on labels about the nutritional value of foods should be clear, accurate and meaningful. This new EU Regulation will make great strides to ensure that misleading, untruthful or inaccurate labelling will be removed. Consumers should not be fooled by labels on foods, they have a right to know what they are buying" said Reilly.
The proposed Regulation aims to harmonise the use of nutrition claims, for example, products claiming to be low in fat may only make such a claim where the product contains no more than 3g of fat per 100g or 1.5g of fat per 100ml. Only nutrition and health claims that are in conformity with the proposed provisions will be allowed on the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods placed on the market within the Community.
Within three years of the regulation coming into force, a 'positive list' of well established claims which will be permitted will be drawn up. Health claims regarding the role of a nutrient in the body, which is well established, such as the claim that calcium plays an important role in the strengthening of teeth and bones would be permitted. For more novel claims, scientific evaluation and pre-marketing approval will be required.
"This strengthening of the rules governing the labelling, presentation and advertising of foods placed on the market will ensure that any information about foods and their nutritional value that is used in the labelling, marketing and advertising of a food product which is not clear, accurate and meaningful and cannot be substantiated will not be permitted," concluded Reilly.