Europe to tighten label health claims

The European Commission is going in the opposite direction from FDA, proposing to require that all health claims on food, drinks, or food supplements be supported by independent experts.

No health claims would be allowed on alcoholic beverages, and no weight control claims would be allowed. Only foods meeting a certain nutrition profile —low in salt, sugars, or fat—could bear a health claim.

Food companies are vigorously protesting the proposed restrictions, arguing that companies that can scientifically prove a health benefit and communicate it clearly should be allowed to make it. If passed by the European Parliament, the rule would take effect in 2005.

EU Health Commissioner David Burne said he would adopt additional rules limiting fortification of foods with vitamins and minerals that already have a healthy nutrition profile. He said he also wants to reform labeling regulations to make labels more understandable to consumers. The actions are part of a strategy to counter a growing trend in obesity among Europeans.

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