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EU: Health Food Shop owners may be gagged, says M.E.P. Marian Harkin


A new Regulation on nutrition and health claims made on foods could effectively gag health-food shop owners and staff from giving nutritional or health advice based on claims for certain products such as probiotics, cranberry juice, co-enzyme Q.10 Glucosamine and perhaps even prunes.


This was stated by M.E.P. Marian Harkin following a vote in the European Parliament Environment Committee where it was decided to accept the publishing of a Register of rejected claims concerning nutrition and health claims made on certain foods. M.E.P. Harkin spoke of her disappointment and utter frustration at the decision which will cause great concern for health food store owners, for small manufacturers of health food products and which will leave citizens in a no-mans-land with regard to information on the health benefits of many foods.


Marian Harkin says "I have been involved in this campaign for many years in trying to persuade the E.U. Commission and the European Food Safety Authority to take a proportionate approach to these issues. This was clearly the intention of the Parliament when we voted on this legislation in 2004. However the Commission have not followed the intent of the legislation where it says that health claims, other than those referring to a reduction in disease risk or to children's health and development, 'should undergo a different type of assessment and authorisation.'


This did not happen, the Commission have admitted they used the same type of scientific assessment for all claims and as a result a whole range of foods for which health claims and nutrition claims are widely known and accepted have either been refused or not made the positive list.


The European Food Safety Authority did not feel it had sufficient evidence to give a thumbs-up to prunes. Everybody knows that prunes help keep you regular but the E.U. Commission is not yet convinced. Cranberry juice is widely used for helping in the treatment of urinary infections, yet it got the thumbs-down. Many many people use Glucosamine to assist with joint health and mobility, it also got the thumbs down as did magnesium which can help to prevent cramps. The list of refusals goes on and on with only 222 claims approved out of the 4700 claims initially submitted. This now means that manufacturers cannot make any health claims for those products that were not approved.


This Regulation will have serious consequences for small manufacturers of health food products in particular those who do not have the resources to fund Randomised Control Trials in the healthy population to back-up their claims. Only the larger companies will have the resources to provide the type of evidence required by the Commission and this will have a significant effect on smaller manufacturers in particular. It will also hugely impact on health food store owners and there are approximately 100 of these in Ireland. According to the legislation, owners and staff in health food stores will have to justify any claims they make for products and given the overwhelming rate of dismissal of claims by the Commission they will be effectively gagged if they operate within the legislation" Marian Harkin concluded.


Further information from:
Marian Harkin M.E.P                                                            
Ph: 086-8341758  Sligo office: 071-9145888
E-mail:                                                            Website:


Author: Greer Deal, Director of Global Regulatory Services