The food industry claims that new EC legislation will force it to print negative health claims. To clarify matters, the EC has once again released a statement showing that the real effect of the legislation will be to ensure that consumers are honestly informed about the health value of foods.

The European Commission has been forced to clarify the effects if its forthcoming health claims legislation, following considerable misinterpretation of the new statutes by the food industry. In a statement speaking of "myths and misunderstandings", the EC restated the legislation and its intended effects. It also clarified which areas the legislation would not cover.

This seems to be the area of greatest confusion. Apparently, the food industry's interpretation of the legislation was mistaken in several instances. For example, they claim to have believed that they would be forced to print negative health claims. Similarly, it was widely believed that slogans such as "Red Bull gives you wings" would be banned as false.

These claims are of course nonsense. The legislation targets specific health claims and insists only that they be accurate and verifiable. Consumer groups, who see the legislation as leading the way towards better-informed consumers, have welcomed the proposals. As a result of the legislation, claims such as 'low-fat', which are currently attached to large numbers of products, will be reserved for specific, measurable amounts of fat (less than 3g/100g or 1.5g per 100g). Claims such as '90% fat free' - which would in fact imply a large quantity of fat - will no longer be permitted.

The food industry will still retain a high level of control over its marketing and slogans. The EC will not be dictating what claims manufacturers must make about their foods - it will simply be ruling on whether their proposed claims can be backed up by the evidence. While the food industry seems to fear these proposals, it is clear that the ordinary consumer will benefit considerably from clearer, more accurate information.

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