European nutritional and health claims regulation is about to get even more complicated.

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been evaluating more than 4,000 'general function' health claims such as 'calcium is good for your bones' to ensure EU food label claims are substantiated by scientific evidence.

EFSA, which planned to evaluate health claims in four batches by early 2011, revealed this week that there would now be at least six batches.

A separate piece of legislation will be introduced for each batch of evaluations, after which manufacturers will have six months to withdraw unsubstantiated claims.

"Producers of products with more than one health claim will have a difficult decision to make," said BRC assistant director for food policy Andrea Martinez-Inchausti. "If a product has three health claims, the producer may be forced to withdraw the first claim under the first batch. But should it withdraw all three claims at the same time, or run the risk of making two further label changes when later batches are assessed?"

EFSA has completed two batches, delivering a blow to manufacturers of omega-3 enriched foods, energy drinks and probiotics.

Danone withdrew its request to approve claims about the health benefits of Actimel and Activia in April, saying it needed clarification from EFSA. A spokesman said Danone was reviewing the situation following discussions with EFSA this week.

Read more
Focus On Functional Foods (29 May 2010)
Which? warning over Euro health claims regime (25 March 2010)
EU rules may snarl up labelling compromise (13 March 2010)