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UK retailers have expressed concern that imminent EU rules on food health claims could hold back national health campaigns and reduce innovation in the sector.

On Sunday (1 July), EU regulations on nutrition and health come into force, meaning that claims made on certain products must be backed by scientific evidence.

As a consequence, products claiming to be so-called “superfoods”, including blueberries and spinach, will be forbidden from describing themselves as such – unless the claim can be proved.

The EU regulations also apply to nutritional claims including “low in salt” and “reduces cholesterol”. The law is designed to create EU-wide consistency for nutritional claims and therefore more accurately explain to consumers why a particular product is good for their health.

However, the British Retail Consortium (BRC) said today (29 June) that, although it supports the principle behind the EU regulations, it still has causes for concern.

For instance, the BRC fears that retailers will no longer be able to carry health messages backed by the UK government. The BRC also claims that the EU regulations will make it harder for retailers and manufacturers to reformulate their products simply by reducing salt or fat.

BRC director general Kevin Hawkins said: “Our concern is not about the principle of this legislation. It is right that claims such as ‘reduced fat’ or ‘good for your heart’ are supported by science but customers must not be denied nutrition and health messages they find valuable.

“The regulation still risks unintended consequences. It could thwart national health campaigns and compromise innovation of healthier products. We will need to keep the impact of this regulation under review.”