The European Parliament has passed a new Regulation on food intended for infants and young children, food for special medical purposes and total diet replacement for weight control. 

The new Regulation will replace various pieces of existing legislation in an effort to simplify and clarify the rules on the labelling and composition of products that make up some 1 to 2% of the total food market. These are infant formula and follow-on formula (for babies aged 6 to 10 months), processed cereal-based food and baby food for infants and young children, food for special medical purposes, and total diet replacement for weight control.

The Regulation also includes an exclusive list of substances such as vitamins and minerals that can be added to these foods.

The need for the new legislation stems from the fact that infants and those who are ill are deemed not to be ordinary consumers and it was considered necessary to adapt the rules on food safety, composition, labelling and quality accordingly.

The current EU rules applicable to such products are complex and fragmented and are based around the broad concept of “'foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses”. Numerous sets of rules can apply in respect of any one particular product and there is often widespread confusion as to the standards to be applied. The new Regulation will eliminate the concept of “foodstuffs for particular nutritional uses”, which is considered to be no longer fit for purpose.

This development will likely be welcomed by consumers and businesses alike given the fragmented nature of the existing law in the area. The new law will apply in all EU member states from July 2016, allowing businesses a lead-in time to adapt their commercial practices to comply with its terms.

As part of its review of food targeted at specific groups, the European Parliament has also asked the Commission to clarify the complex legal situation of milks intended for children aged 12 to 36 months (so-called "growing-up milks"), to evaluate whether such milks have any nutritional benefits compared to a normal diet and to propose specific legislation in this context, if necessary. The Parliament also recommended that the Commission table a report on the possible need for legislation on foods intended for sportspeople.