NUTRITION AND HEALTH CLAIMS (11646/03)
Letter from Caroline Flint MP, Parliamentary
Under-Secretary of State for Public Health, Department of Health
to the Chairman
I am writing to report progress of the negotiations
on this proposal. The Committee was informed on 17 February of
the adoption of the Council's Common Position text at the Health
Council in December 2005 and this allowed the European Parliament
to commence its second reading of the proposal in January of this
A series of trialogue meetings is currently
taking place involving the Council (represented by the Austrian
Presidency), the Parliament's rapporteurs and the Commission.
It is possible that the plenary session of the European Parliament
in the week commencing 15 May will adopt amendments amenable to
Council, which could lead to a second reading deal.
The Committee was concerned during the first
reading about the proportionality of this proposal, and this has
been one of the key UK objectives in this negotiation. The European
Parliament has also been pressing for amendments which would minimise
the burdens on business. There are three principal issues still
is where a claim (for example of vitamin or mineral content) would
be restricted on a food not meeting a profile to be established
by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The Council agreed
the appropriate control would be to prohibit the claim. This was
unacceptable to the European Parliament. A compromise has been
suggested by the Parliament where, if only one nutrient did not
meet the profile (eg high fat content), the claim would not be
prohibited but information about the nutrient would be highlighted
so the consumer was not misled about the nutritional content of
the food. This would be acceptable to the UK provided there were
clear practical safeguards to avoid misleading the consumer.
Authorisation of new health
claimsthis qoncerns the process to apply to new health
claims not eligible for the lighter generally accepted claims
list (described in the explanatory memoranda submitted on this
proposal). The concern here was about the effect on industry innovation
of a lengthy approvals process and the European Parliament has
proposed a compromise that sets strict time limits. This could
be acceptable to Council. Whilst this would improve the Council's
Common Position, the UK has argued for a provisional authorisation
approach pending a fuller assessment by EFSA.
Trade marksthis is about
how to control claims that have been registered as a trade mark.
A difference of opinion remains between the Council and European
Parliament. The Parliament may back down from its proposed exemption
for these claims, to acceptance of the Council's suggested solution
but with a longer transition period than the 10 years offered.
Indeed, longer transition periods overall are a likely outcome
of the current discussions.
A second reading deal would allow formal adoption
of the Regulation, with entry into force some six months later.
This is unlikely at the June Health Council, but may be finalised
by September or October. The Regulation will be directly applicable
in the UK, but statutory instruments in England and each of the
devolved administrations would be required to set penalties for
offences. I will write again to provide a further update of the
4 May 2006
Letter from the Chairman to Caroline Flint
Thank you for your letter which was considered
by Sub-Committee G on 18 May.
We note what you say about the progress towards
a Second Reading deal. As you know, this document has already
been cleared from scrutiny but we are grateful to you for promising
to report further developments.
19 May 2006