On 25 January 2013, the European Commission’s new guidelines regarding the use of food-related health claims (“Guidelines”) were published in the EU’s Official Journal. The Guidelines are intended to clarify ambiguities regarding the specific conditions for health claims laid down in Article 10 of the EU Health Claims Regulation (1924/2006).

Article 10 of the EU Health Claims Regulation imposes a general prohibition on non-compliant health claims, requires that health claims are accompanied by certain mandatory information, and bans general, non-specific health claims unless they are accompanied by a specific authorized health claim.

The Guidelines, adopted in the form of an Implementing Decision (2013/63/EU), inter alia, provide clarifications on:

  • how to include mandatory information on the labelling, or alternatively in the advertising or presentation, of the food for which a health claim is made, in particularly with respect to generic advertising, distance selling and non-prepacked foodstuffs;
  • the information that the mandatory information must convey to consumers, in light of food business operators’ general responsibility to market food which is safe and not harmful; and
  • the circumstances in which the use of general, non-specific statements relating to health or well-being benefits of foods is permitted, including the need for a relationship between the general, non-specific statement and the accompanying specific authorized health claim.

While the Guidelines certainly do not resolve all ambiguities of the specific conditions applicable to food-related health claims set out in Article 10 of the EU Health Claims Regulation, they do provide some welcome guidance. Food business operators with health-based communication strategies should, therefore, review their current or envisaged practices in light of the Guidelines (available here) to ensure compliance.