FSA Interested parties Letter (CPD/0016), 10 November 2008
The Commission Working Group on Nutrition and Health claims met on 27 October. There were three items on the agenda: nutrient profiles, the Article 13 health claims process and the authorisation of Article 13(5) and Article 14 claims that EFSA have issued an opinion on. Under AOB, it was agreed that 15% of the NRV should be considered a “significant amount” to make vitamin and mineral claims on follow-on formula and cereal-based weaning foods, as defined by the specific Parnuts legislation relating to these foods.
The Commission presented its working paper on nutrient profiles, which was published on 22 October. They invited comments from Member States, focusing on the categories, eligibility criteria for categories and thresholds. Written comments were also requested in advance of the next Commission Working Group on 21 November. The Agency's consultation on nutrient profiles ends on 28 November, but there is a stakeholder meeting on 14 November to help prepare for the next Commission Working Group, where the UK will maintain a scrutiny reserve pending end of consultation with stakeholders. Any vote is not expected until December at the earliest.
The working paper proposes general exemptions for food supplements, foods consumed in very small quantities within an energy ceiling, foods for particular nutritional use where the composition is fixed accordingly and so cannot compete equally with standard foods, and on fruit and vegetables (with nothing added) due to their particular importance in the diet. Some Member States questioned which foods would have access to the low-energy exemption. There was also some call for an energy limit to be re-introduced for supplements, but other Member States thought the definition in the supplements Directive was already sufficiently clear.
There was limited support for a proposed additional exemption for sports foods, as it was felt that these did not have an adequately defined composition.
The Commission was keen to limit the number of categories to minimise borderline issues and make application of the profiles easier. Although Member States were in favour of this in principle, some felt that more subcategories may be necessary to sufficiently define categories, but that with fewer categories more flexibility with thresholds would be needed.
There was some discussion about rearranging the current categories, for example to include all starchy foods within one category with subcategories for meal accompaniments, bread products etc, but the Commission was reluctant to introduce new categories and preferred adjusting thresholds instead.
Eligibility Criteria for Categories
Member States were keen to make the eligibility criteria as clear as possible – the current categories define pizza as a cereal whereas it would generally be considered to be a ready meal. The Commission suggested a number of possible criteria for defining ready meals, such as setting compositional criteria (for example a minimum protein content) or setting a minimum quantity for certain ingredients (for example cereals or fruit and vegetables).
It was proposed to clarify that, to be eligible for a total exemption, fruit and vegetables should have no added sodium, saturated fat or sugar, which would allow dried fruit to be exempted.
The Commission said that its aim had been to align the thresholds in the working paper with Member States' national dietary recommendations. It was emphasised that the intention of the nutrient profiles is not to categorise foods as good or bad, but rather to restrict claims where consumers could be misled about the true nature of foods.
Some Member States felt that additional nutrients could be taken into account for some categories, for example fibre for breakfast cereals and unsaturated fat for oils. However, the Commission said that the importance of these nutrients had already been taken into account by allowing adapted profiles for these categories of food.
A number of Member States were in favour of introducing a sodium limit for the spreadable fats and oils category.
Article 13 process
The Commission intends to send a revised list of claims to EFSA at the beginning of November. EFSA are currently screening claims, and will return those where the food component, health relationship or conditions of use are ill-defined to the Commission, who will seek clarification from Member States to enable EFSA to carry out an assessment. EFSA will publish the list of claims on their website in November, with an indication of which claims have passed the screening and which have been returned to the Commission for clarification.
Further details of EFSA's process for screening and assessing Article 13 claims can be found on their website at: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1211902143225.htm
Article 13(5) and 14 claims
The Commission said its understanding was that, unlike Article 13 claims, there would be no flexibility with the wording of claims authorised under the Article 13(5) or 14 routes. Some Member States questioned the practicality of this, and asked how translation issues would be dealt with.
There was further discussion about the proposed wording and conditions of use for the plant sterols/lowering cholesterol claim (disease risk reduction) and the ALA/growth and development claim (children's development and health). EFSA explained that they had given a neutral opinion on the latter claim as, although a relationship between the food and health had been established, there was no evidence for an additional benefit above the level that can be obtained from a balanced diet. These claims will be discussed further at the next Commission Working Group meeting before going to Standing Committee on 10 December for a vote. All Article 14 claims will go to Standing Committee, regardless of whether EFSA's opinion is positive or negative.
Date of next meeting: 21 November
For previous news item on this topic, see: 23 October 2008 CLAIMS - EU Nutrient Profiles: Commission Working Dcouments