With a regulation issued on 14 June 2012 (No. 432/2012) the European Commission authorised a set of health claims which are based on Article 13(1) of the Regulation on nutrition and health claims made on foods (No. 1924/2006) which entered into force already in 2007. The health claims currently in use that were not specifically authorised by the Commission shall be removed from the market within the transfer period of six months ending on 14 December 2012.
By virtue of the Health Claims Regulation, only use of health and nutrition claims that are based on scientific evidence and that are specifically authorised by the Commission is allowed in advertising and marketing of foods. An authorised claim can only be used on the specific ingredient and in connection with the products the claim has been authorised for. The purpose of the Health Claims Regulation is to protect the consumer against misleading claims and unfounded promises. The list of authorised health claims published by the Commission in summer of 2012 is expected to be supplemented as the Commission is expected to publish additional authorised claims at the end of the transfer period. Also hundreds of health claims still await the assessment of the Commission.
The expiry of the transfer periods relating to the Health Claims Regulation may cause changes to expressions used in marketing of foods, because use of indirect health and nutrition claims is also forbidden in marketing of foods. The premises for the Health Claims Regulation are strict as according to the regulation no claims having reference to promotion of health should be made without scientific evidence. Other expressions than verbal expressions, such as an image, logo or symbol, can also be considered as indirect claims. As a list of claims considered forbidden or indirect does not exist, interpretation of the Health Claims Regulation and the line between common marketing expressions and expressions considered as health and nutrition claims will be subject to discussion within the food industry. It is also worth noting that food supplements are classified as foods, meaning that the Health Claims Regulation also applies to expressions used in their marketing.
National authorities supervise the proper implementation of the Health Claims Regulation. Together with the Finnish Food Safety Authority Evira, municipalities’ food safety authorities are responsible for the practical supervision in Finland. Evira has noted that special attention shall be paid to the use of health claims in supervision of foods next year and the use of health claims will be monitored intensely. Therefore now is the time to pay special attention to health and nutrition claims used in the marketing of foods.