Case study

Report on Health Claims Seminar held in September 2016

Summary of Government Chemist seminar for stakeholders to share insights on the regulation and enforcement of health claims on labeling and marketing

Seminar at the Royal Society of Chemistry
Seminar at the Royal Society of Chemistry

Background

Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 governs the use of nutrition and health claims in the labeling, presentation and advertising of foods. It aims to enable consumers to make healthier choices, protect them from misleading information and ensure a level playing field for food businesses.

This complex and still evolving piece of legislation has many facets hence enforcement can be challenging. To address these challenges a seminar was arranged by the Government Chemist Programme to bring together stakeholders to share insights on the regulation (including co- and self- regulation) and enforcement of health claims on food labels and in adverts.

Recommendations arising from the seminar

  1. Run the seminar again (e.g. in the north of England if possible).
  2. A multiple stakeholder forum is needed to arrive at correct interpretation and shorten the decision making process in difficult cases.
  3. Introduction of the ‘improvement notice’ option for UK implementation of Regulation 1924/2006.
  4. A checklist for use in examining labels and advertisements should be developed. Appendix 1 offers an illustration of how this might be commenced, readers are invited to comment.
  5. More guidance on priorities and analytical methods is needed for food and food supplements for which health claims are made.

The seminar

The seminar took place on 29th September 2016 at the Royal Society of Chemistry, Burlington House, Piccadilly, London with 51 attendees (including speakers) across a wide spectrum (Figure 1).

Figure 1

Organisation Number of attendees
BNF 1
LGC 2
ASA/CAP 6
MHRA 2
Industry 7
Dept of Health 2
TSOs 19
Public analysts 12

An impressive array of speakers guided us through the complexities of health claims, and the seminar ended with an opportunity to discuss the way forward. The speakers and topics were varied:

  • Dr Katheryn Callaghan, Nutrition Legislation, Department of Health introduced the legislation

  • Dr Rosalind Miller British Nutrition Foundation (BNF), described Project Bacchus, a best practice guide for health claims

  • Liz Moran MChemA, Deputy Head of Scientific Services, Public Analyst Scientific Services Ltd covered enforcement and standards

  • Katharine Mason from the Committee of Advertising practice (CAP) and Carrie Speer, Advertising Standards Authority (ASA) explained the principles of self- and co-regulation and the approach, with typical adjudications on health claims, of the these independent regulators for advertising across all media

  • Dr Chris Jones, Manager Medicines Borderline Section of the Medicines & Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA), described assessment of borderline products

  • TC Callis, (PAGB) and Penny Viner, Vice-President HFMA discussed industry guidance and standards.

The feedback was overwhelmingly positive about the guidance and advice received, quality of the lectures, pre-seminar information and instructions, venue and networking opportunities. CPD certificates were sent to those requesting them. A paper has been prepared for the March edition of the BNF Nutrition Bulletin.

Acknowledgments

The author gratefully acknowledges the speakers and delegates for valuable insights and discussion, the RSC for provision of the venue, and funding from the European Unions’ Seventh Framework Programme for research, technological development and demonstration under grant agreement No 312090 and from the UK Department for Business, Energy and Industrial Strategy as part of the Government Chemist Programme.

The seminar was organised on behalf of the Association of Public Analysts Educational Trust who underwrote the cost.

Appendix 1: Towards an enforcement checklist

It is suggested the following questions should be considered in appraising a food or food supplement for which health claims are made. Many of the points below are derived from Liz Moran’s presentation with contributions from other speakers. Readers are invited to comment on this list to the author michael.walker@lgcgroup.com by 27th February 2017.

  1. Is it a food?
  2. Is it a food supplement?
  3. Is the claim authorised? Check the EU register
  4. Does the product satisfy any conditions of use required by the legislation authorising the claim? Check the EU register
  5. Are the labeling requirements for use of the claim correct?
  6. Does the label include mandatory information (e.g. warnings, nutrition labeling, Article 10 statements)?
  7. Is it or any of its ingredients prohibited?
  8. Is it or any of its ingredients a novel food?
  9. Are any of the claims medicinal (prevent treat or cure a disease)?
  10. Are the claims on hold? If so are they properly worded?
  11. If the claim is authorised, does the product contain sufficient levels of the signature ingredient to cause the claimed effect? (Consult EFSA opinion for advice and possibly for an analytical method).
  12. Is there merit in further analysis for :
    • Illegal ingredients
    • Annex II allergens
    • Additives
    • Contaminants
  13. Does the wording of the claim have the same meaning as the authorised wording?
  14. Is there as ASA ruling or MHRA classification of the product or a similar product?
  15. If non-compliant is the Food Business Operator, FBO ,a member of a Trade Organisation to which the non-compliance could be referred?
  16. If non-compliant has the enforcement hierarchy been applied?

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Published 19 December 2016