13 September 2022
The Campaign at a Glance
Our latest campaign points to the lack of a harmonised EU approach to deal with botanicals’ safe use in food creating serious confusion among consumers, unable to understand whether they are buying something considered as “food”, “medicine” or even both, and to the more than 2000 claims awaiting to be evaluated by the Commission since 2012.
The Campaign in Detail
Why is this happening?
The Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation specifies that the use of nutrition and health claims should not be misleading and will only be allowed if a beneficial effect is scientifically proved by EFSA. In 2009, none of the health claims on botanicals received a favourable assessment by EFSA, which led to a suspension of the authorisation procedure in 2010.
Requirements for the scientific substantiation of health claims on plants are hard to meet, mainly due to the absence of human intervention studies. This resulted in the Commission establishing an ‘on-hold’ list of 2,078 health claims for botanicals in 2012.
These claims may still be used on the EU market under the responsibility of business operators provided that they comply with the general principles and conditions of the Claims Regulation and following all different national approaches.
The current lack of a harmonised approach creates issues for consumers in understanding what they are purchasing. A 2020 Commission Staff Working Document notably stated that the current situation risks exposing consumers to unsubstantiated health claims for which consumers might think that the benefits have been scientifically assessed and risk-managed, while they have not.
SAFE urges decision-makers to:
- Create a tailored risk assessment based on appropriate methodologies to ensure health claims are respecting consumers’ expectations on botanical food supplements in order to allow them to access more information from the labelling while buying these products.
- Establish a harmonised system equal in all Member States where botanical foods supplements can be identified with the same criteria by all national authorities.