Commission Press Release, 11 June 2013
Today, the European Parliament gave its green light on a set of clearer rules protecting specific groups of consumers such as infants and young children. The aim is to better protect consumers on the content and marketing of these “special” food products, and to provide a better environment for businesses, as well as better application of rules.
Tonio Borg, EU Commissioner for Health and Consumers said “I welcome today’s endorsement by the European Parliament as we need to make sure that EU rules on food for specific groups are fit for purpose and evolve at the same speed as market developments. Today’s agreement goes exactly in that direction by maintaining rules to protect vulnerable groups of consumers and by getting rid of outdated rules that no longer serve any purpose.”
More and more food products exist on the market that target specific groups of the population. The EU rules in force for these products are complex and fragmented since different sets of rules and concepts can overlap and create confusion for businesses and national authorities who apply the rules.
This new Regulation on food for specific groups will streamline the rules that apply throughout the EU, by eliminating those that are unnecessary and contradictory and by replacing them with a new, simplified Framework. The new Framework will cover:
The new Regulation will do away with the dated broad concept of 'foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses', which has proven not fit for today’s market and legal context.
Under the new approach, food for other population groups will fall under different legislation. For example, rules on food for coeliacs will be transferred to the Regulation on Food Information to Consumers.
The Regulation will be published in the EU Official Journal in the coming weeks and will only apply from 2016 to allow time for businesses to adapt their commercial practices. No products will however have to be withdrawn from the market.
Over the next two years, the Commission will:
The Commission will also adopt specific rules on the use of statements on the absence or reduced presence of lactose in foods.
Foods for particular nutritional uses (or 'dietetic foods') are currently defined as foods that are different from foods for normal consumption and, owing to their special composition or manufacturing, are intended to satisfy the particular nutritional requirements of specific groups of the population.
The designation under which a dietetic food is sold is accompanied by a suitability statement for the particular nutritional use and the specific group of the population to whom the food is intended (e.g.: gluten-free food for celiac people, processed cereal-based food for young children, infant formulae for infants from birth, food for sports people etc.).
The rules for these foods have been in place for over 30 years and given the evolution of food products and of EU food legislation, a review of the dietetic food framework became necessary. Specialised "normal" foods have increasingly been targeting groups of the general population (e.g. protein bar supporting muscle building for athletes, food supplements for pregnant women, fortified food in calcium and vitamin D suitable for older adults, slimming products etc.).
In the meantime, more recent legislation was developed to better regulate these products (e.g. Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods that sets specific rules on how operators can inform consumers about the beneficial nutritional or health properties of food). It appeared clear that the difference between "dietetic foods" and "normal foods" for specific groups of the population was no longer clear for citizens, stakeholders and enforcement authorities. An Impact Assessment drafted by the Commission confirmed that the existence of a specific EU framework for "dietetic foods" existing in parallel with other, more recent, pieces of legislation was no longer justified.
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