The European Commission is facing the daunting prospect of wading through thousands and thousands of applications for health claims approval.
Under the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, manufacturers and retailers will not be able to make claims unless approval has been given by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
States have been asked to submit a list of claims to EFSA by 19 January. The agency is braced to receive as many as 9,000 - including 1,000 from the UK alone.
EFSA has asked an expert working group to whittle these down to about 1,000, before it scrutinises these claims and has the final say. A spokesman said the working group would compile the shortlist by identifying claims that linked specific food components with health benefits. Similar claims made about the same component - such as Vitamin C - could be consolidated under a single claim that could be applied to different products containing required levels of that nutrient.
Not everyone is happy with this process, however. Some fear genuine claims could be rejected in the rush to reduce the number of claims. "The industry is very concerned this consolidation will not be transparent, and there are fears it will mean many claims with scientific backing could be disregarded," said Katherine Veal, head of regulatory information at Leatherhead Food International.
The new regulation will come into effect in 2010, when EFSA will publish the final EU-wide list of approved claims.