Italy’s AGCM to EC: Claims Regulation not enough, European guidelines for health claims in foods needed

The Italian authority for misleading advertising, which is also the antitrust authority wrote to European Commission to bring about a discussion about the regulation for the use of health claims in foodstuffs. The letter itself has not been made public.
At present the use of any health claim is allowed under the stringent conditions of Regulation 1924/2006, which involve the European Food Safety Authority‘s scientific assessment. AGCM believes that this is not sufficient and asks guidelines at European level for companies to ensure accurate and complete information to consumers.
According to AGCM, health claims related to food products, already approved by the Commission after EFSA’s scientific examination, can be used in an instrumental way by companies. Health claims- says the president of AGCM in a press release used in advertising sometimes tend to emphasize disease or to trivialize health problems; they do not provide correct information to consumers but rather exaggerate the effectiveness of the products.
AGCM also reminds that even in the presence of health-claim authorized by the European Commission, EU legislation requires that the use of nutrition and health claims “cannot be false, ambiguous or misleading”. This is what often happens, according to the AGCM, due to the improper use of both text and images by companies.

“It is imperative that consumers are protected from misleading advertising.” said Luca Bucchini, Managing Director of Hylobates Consulting, in a statement “The Nutrient and Health Claims Regulation is stringent and comprehensive in its requirements, and has been applied in a very stringent manner by EFSA. It creates a framework which protects consumers and provides a degree of certainty to food businesses, which did not exist before. As a consequence, we are concerned that further guidelines may create more, not less, confusion – continued Bucchini –  Evaluation of claims should be science-based; the Regulation has clarified that benefits of a substance can be claimed for a food, and that, within clear rules, a substance or food can claim a specific benefit that other foods in the diet don’t have. We hope that AGCM will accept these and other well-established scientific and legal principles and will work within the existing legal framework”

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