The EU’s incoming health claim labelling rule for food has been given a drubbing by industry experts and politicians, who have called for “time out” on the laws’ implementation to allow for an impact assessment.

At a conference earlier this week, the critics argued that, as things stand, the regulation was too rigid and restrictive and could damage innovation in the European food sector, causing it to lose out to international competitors.

Dr Ivan Baines, of the Max Planck Institute, told the conference: “The regulation in its present form is a deterrent to food R&D in the Union. This may pre-empt the development of important nutraceuticals as well as closing the door on EU competitiveness in nutrition, wellness ands health.”

This could have an especially harsh impact on small and medium-sized businesses in the industry, he added.

Dutch MEP Jules Maaten said: “The lack of an impact assessment on this regulation raises the issue of delaying the implementation of health claims legislation.”