clacium, bonesThe regulation that has prohibited 1000s of health claims for want of adequate scientific data also contravened EU human rights laws, he said, noting article 27 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) which states:
"Everyone has the right freely to participate in the cultural life of the community, to enjoy the arts and to share in scientific advancement and its benefits."
For Schwitters, who last year published a book called Health Claims Censored: The case against the European health claims regulation, the NHCR “seriously compromised” this principle.
“Advancements made in nutritional science and the benefits produced by foods and foodstuffs may no longer be shared with consumers by those who procure the foods and foodstuffs,” he said.
Schwitters said the authorisation system was so stringent it could only curtail the sharing of nutritional information, especially now that the NHCR general function, article 13.1 list was law (from December 14, 2012).
“In the name of protecting consumers against misleading health claims, the entire body of scientific advancement in the field of human health and nutrition – which can easily fill a library of a reputable University – was reduced to 222 ‘health benefits’ that consumers may share in.”
“That calcium is good for our bones is now etched in law.”
Pudding, proof, public interest…
Schwitters said the much-debated regulation had the effect of abstracting the experience of consuming healthy foods and supplements.
“Traditionally, consumers learned about health by using products, not by reading scientific journals, newspapers, magazines, books or websites,” he observed.
“Consumers instinctively know that the proof of the pudding is in the eating. In the European Union, the proof of the pudding is no longer in the eating. Since 2006, it is in the minds of ‘proof of the pudding’ assessors – policy advisors – and ‘proof of the pudding’ managers – policy makers.”
While many consumer groups have welcomed the NHCR for cracking down on exaggerated claims, Schwitters maintains a new regulation was not required as existing legislation around truth in advertising and misleading claims already policed such commercial behaviour.
“The benefits of scientific advancement were exchanged with consumers in the form of food-products and the commercial communication that accompanied them.”
“…consumers now find themselves at the mercy of politicians, policy advisers and consumer advocates, who have no qualms to censor scientific advancement and its benefits in accordance with their own ideological, political and idiosyncratic preferences.”
“Their standard excuse for violating Article 27 of the UDHR is that they serve the ‘public interest’, and provide a high level of protection for the curtailed.”
Instead, he concluded, “As a result of the NHCR, consumers – also known as humans – find themselves destitute of the rights they considered unalienable. And, as a result of that same regulation, they also find themselves destitute of scientific advancement and its benefits.”
A number of national health food and supplement associations including those from Spain, Italy, the UK and the Netherlands have mounted legal actions against the NHCR. Brussels-based EU food law expert and partner at Keller and Heckman, Jean Savigny, told us previously the first cases could be heard in EU courts this summer.