European changes to health food claims could leave small firms ailing, according to the Forum of Private Business (FPB).

The FPB described European Parliament proposals for health claims on food packaging as “unnecessary” and “another burden for small business”.

MEPs have concluded that they will support moves to limit the extent to which packaging can boast health benefits, FPB said.

The FPB’s Food Advisor Bob Salmon said: “This added regulation is totally unnecessary. Legislation passed in 2002 demanded that retailers of food products do not mislead their customers, so why are they putting so much effort into repeating that?

“All this will achieve will be to further burden small business and to limit the amount of products and information available to the consumer. It is bad news for health food shops and the advertising industry,” he added.

However, Salmon believes there are some positive aspects, welcoming the more practical compromise taken by the European Parliament over the original Commission proposal.

“The moves to clarify low fat and sugar content descriptions, for example, are good but nothing new. The real impact will be when firms to have to go away and scientifically prove claims they are making about their product, which will be a long and costly process,” he said.