Blog: Dean BestEU laws on health claims just the tonic

Dean Best | 29 June 2007

From Sunday (1 July), there will be a tightening of the rules on the health claims food manufacturers and retailers can make on their products.

EU regulations on nutrition and health come into force, meaning that claims made on certain products must be backed by scientific evidence.

UK retailers have today (29 June) got into a bit of a flap over the legislation, expressing fears that it will become harder for retailers and manufacturers to reformulate their products simply by reducing salt or fat. The UK retailers’ body, the British Retail Consortium (BRC), has also spoken of its concern that rules on claims surrounding children's development and health were only added to the regulations at a late stage. 

Now, there is little doubt that, with consumers continuing to embrace healthier products, that health claims represent vital currency for manufacturers seeking to capture share of a growing market. As such, it is understandable that manufacturers and retailers are keen to ensure that regulations on what they can and cannot say about the healthy attributes of their products are as watertight as possible.

However, the EU regulations due to come in on Sunday have been years in the making; it is puzzling that interested parties are expressing concern at this late stage. What’s more, under the guidelines, companies will have over two years to adjust their marketing in line with the new rules. That’s plenty of time for manufacturers and retailers to get their houses in order and to ensure their products really are as good for consumers as they say they are.

After all, with consumers facing a tidal wave of claims and counter-claims on the health attributes of certain products, there is a danger that they will just turn away from buying healthier products, unless they are given independent guidance that is underpinned by regulation.

And for every consumer that turns away from eating more healthily, the industry takes a step back from fighting against problems like rising obesity.


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