EP News Item, 6 April 2011
Proposals to allow producers to claim that adding the fatty acid DHA to baby food "contributes to the normal visual developments of infants up to 12 months of age" were backed by the European Parliament today, when it rejected a move to block them.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid naturally occurring in breast milk. Many baby milk formulas include it as a synthetic additive. Manufacturers applied for permission to make the health claim for DHA added to baby food, including follow-on formulae, for infants from 6-12 months.
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) gave a favorable opinion on the application, and the European Commission proposed to add the health claim "DHA intake contributes to the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age" to the list of permitted claims. Parliament has until 21 April 2011 to block the claim, if it so wishes.
In today's vote, the resolution opposing the plan did not achieve the necessary qualified majority of votes (388), so it was not passed. The vote was 328 votes in favour, 323 against, and 26 abstentions. So in effect, the European Parliament has approved the plan, under which the health claim can be introduced.
The rejected resolution, drawn up by Glenis Willmott (S&D, UK), Daciana Sarbu (S&D, RO), Nessa Childers (S&D, IE) and Karin Kadenbach (S&D, AT) and tabled by the Public Health and Food Safety Committee for a plenary vote, said that there is no scientific consensus on the effect that DHA-fortified formulae has on infants, that more research is needed on the possible effects, both beneficial and harmful, of DHA supplements and that the health claim could be misleading.
"Regulatory procedure with scrutiny" and entry into force
To authorise a health claim, a strict procedure must be followed, including its addition to the relevant Annex of the "Regulation on nutrition and health claims". Parliament and Council may block such implementing measures under the "regulatory procedure with scrutiny". EFSA is responsible for assessing applications by food business operators and evaluates claims on the basis of "generally accepted scientific evidence".
The regulation on the authorisation of the health claim would enter into force 20 days after its publication in the Official Journal of the European Communities. Member States would have to enforce the relevant rules to prevent it being exploited in exaggerated claims to boost sales.