In the European Union, health claims are strictly forbidden for all substances unless the European Commission has allowed them in the so-called “Union list” in accordance with Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods.1 The authorized claims are published in Commission Regulation (EU) No 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods.2

With Commission Regulation (EU) 2015/7 of 6 January 2015 authorizing a health claim made on foods,3 a new health claim on carbohydrates was included in the Union list of authorized health claims of Regulation (EU) No 432/2012. The newly admitted health claim provides:

Carbohydrates contribute to the recovery of normal muscle function (contraction) after highly intensive and/or long-lasting physical exercise leading to muscle fatigue and the depletion of glycogen stores in skeletal muscle.

The claim may be used under the following conditions:

  • The claim may only be used for foods that provide carbohydrates that are metabolized by humans (excluding polyols).
  • Consumers must be informed that the beneficial effect is obtained by consuming carbohydrates, from all sources, at a total intake of 4 g per kg body weight, at doses, within the first 4 hours and no later than 6 hours, following highly intensive and/or long-lasting physical exercise that leads to muscle fatigue and depletion of glycogen stores in skeletal muscle.
  • The claim may be used only for foods intended for adults who have performed highly intensive and/or long-lasting physical exercise that leads to muscle fatigue and depletion of glycogen stores in skeletal muscle.

Background

In December 2006, the European Council and the European Parliament adopted Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. The Regulation establishes harmonized rules across the European Union for the use of nutrition claims such as “low fat” and “high fiber” or health claims such as “reducing blood cholesterol.”

This Regulation provides for implementation measures that ensure any claim made on food labeling, presentation, or marketing in the European Union is clear, accurate and based on evidence accepted by the collective scientific community.

The Commission established a Register of Nutrition and Health Claims to provide a comprehensive overview of authorized nutrition claims, as well as authorized, rejected, and pending health claims.4

There are approximately 260 authorized health claims, 2,000 rejected health claims, and 2,160 health claims that are still under examination. Of those health claims under examination, 2,095 are “on-hold claims” that have not yet been evaluated. Notably, 2,078 of the “on-hold claims” relate to plants and plant substances (so-called “botanicals”). The admissibility of health claims on botanicals has not yet been decided by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), but there are three actions pending before the European Court of First Instance regarding health claims on botanicals.

For further information on the admissibility of health claims, please see the European Commission’s webpage on Health and Nutrition Claims.5

The European regulations on health and nutritional claims are very strict. Health and nutritional claims on food and beverage packaging and in advertising should be reviewed carefully.