EU Regulation on Nutrition and Health Claims: Who benefits?
The proposed EU Regulation on Nutrition and Health Claims had its first reading in the European Parliament on 26 May 2005. This particularly controversial piece of legislation, if passed as proposed by the European Commission, would require that any food or supplement manufacturer who wanted to make a nutrition or health claim in any of the 25 EU member countries would have to submit expensive dossiers of supporting evidence in all 20 community languages.
Fortunately, however, the European Parliament saw fit to amend the Commission's proposal, and to replace it with a relatively simple notification procedure that would not require companies to gain prior authorization for nutrition or health claims. This amendment was a major victory for common sense and yet the European Commission has since stated that the dossier system is central to its proposal and that it cannot accept amendments “that would weaken its fundamental objectives.” (1). Similarly, the European Council's health and consumer affairs group (EPSCO) - with representatives from all 25 EU nations – has also now agreed to stand by the original requirement for prior approval of health claims. (2).
So what is going on here?
Careful examination of the Commission and Council's recent statements show that they are trying to portray the European Parliament as acting in the interests of business, whilst at the same time portraying themselves as defending the interests of consumers. In reality, however, the truth is not quite as simple as that.
To understand what is really going on here, one has to ask who benefits most from a prohibitively expensive health claims authorization procedure? Clearly not small and medium-sized companies who could not afford to submit expensive dossiers of evidence in all 20 community languages. Nor consumers who would be prevented from learning about the health benefits of food and supplement products whenever the manufacturer was unable to afford the expensive dossiers of supporting evidence. And herein lies the biggest clue to who would have the most to lose if the authorisation procedure for health claims was not prohibitively expensive.
By arguing in favour of an authorization procedure for health and nutrition claims that is based upon the submission of expensive dossiers of evidence, the European Commission and Council are acting in the interests of the ‘Business with Disease. ‘
The Pharma Cartel do not want to see their smaller, often more innovative competitors being able to make health claims for food or supplement products. What they want instead is to ensure that the only companies who can afford to make health claims are the large pharma-owned RDA-orientated supplement companies; the pharma-owned GM food manufacturers and the manufacturers of patented synthetic drugs. This is the Commission and Council's true “game” and the one that they do not want to be exposed.
By rejecting the Commission's restrictive and unaffordable dossier system the democratically-elected European Parliament has, for once, done the right thing and should be supported and encouraged by all means possible to hold its position.
The EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation will now go to a second reading in the European Parliament, probably in early 2006.
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