It is understood that the Directorate General for Health and Consumers’ (known as DG SANCO) draft proposal on nutrient profiles, mandated by the 2006 EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, has been the subject of heavy censure. The proposal was put to interservice consultation in mid-February 2009, where it was criticised by other directorates and stakeholder groups, including the enterprise directorate and the European Dairy Association, for having excessively low thresholds that would have a negative effect on the marketing of traditional foods.
Under the draft proposal, if any product has a salt, saturated fat or sugar content above the nutrient profile threshold, manufacturers would be prohibited from making any claims about its health benefits. This has made the profiles particularly unpopular among certain interest groups, such as German bakers, whose traditional breads have high salt levels.
However, a spokesperson for the health commissioner has recently emphasised that nutrient profiles would focus on processed foods and would not apply to ‘traditional breads’ and fresh produce. Some experts have suggested that watering down profiles in this way could be challenged legally for not reflecting the initial intention of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation.
DG SANCO had been keen to be able to send the final text to the European Parliament by 8 April 2009 so that the nutrient profiles could be implemented by the end of this year. This deadline seems more unlikely to be met now, because the Public Health and Food Safety Committee is unable to reach a compromise over the many new amendments and a vote on the proposal may be postponed until after June’s EU parliamentary elections.