Better regulation: SNE warns about the danger of deregulation
- As the European Commission gathers feedback on its better regulation efforts, the specialised nutrition industry raises concerns about the risks of deregulation.
- Deregulation and the lack of specific EU rules for specialised nutrition pose concrete risks including consumer confusion, loss of innovation and market fragmentation.
- SNE calls for the Commission to improve the status of specialised nutrition across the EU in its review of the Better Regulation approach.
The European Commission has launched a stakeholder consultation to take stock of its better regulation agenda and feed into a report which will be published in the spring of 2019. SNE, the voice of the specialised nutrition industry in Europe, has always been supportive of the EU better regulation effort as a way to involve stakeholders in the policy making process and ensure that regulatory burdens are kept to a minimum. However, as stated in its position paper and answer to the consultation, SNE fears that the Commission may have taken a step backwards on specialised nutrition, when the EU still has a key role to play.
Over the years, the successive amendments of the EU framework on specialised nutrition have not led to better regulation. Instead, they have put at stake the harmonized standards that were appropriately governing the sector for decades. On the one hand, the so-called FSG Regulation protects specific groups of consumers (infants, people with medical conditions and people undertaking energy-restricted diets to lose weight) by regulating the composition and labelling of the foods specifically created for them. On the other hand, legal uncertainties remain for foods intended for young children, people with gluten intolerance, overweight and obese people trying to lose weight via meal replacements, and people relying on sports foods for intense muscular efforts.
“90% of Europeans will need to use specialised nutrition at some point in their lives, in many cases as their sole source of nutrition. Specific EU rules for specialised nutrition are critical to boost consumer protection and industry innovation by ensuring minimum and harmonised standards across the European Single Market“, said Udo Herz, President of SNE.
Deregulation and the lack of specific EU rules for specialised nutrition pose concrete risks including consumer confusion, loss of innovation and market fragmentation. Firstly, because specialised nutrition products will fall under the same blanket labelling and marketing rules as general food products, consumers will not be able to recognize products specially formulated for their nutritional needs and differentiate them from other food products. This is also expected to disincentivise R&D, as industry will lose the ability to provide information about the positive health and nutritional impact of scientific and clinically-supported innovations. Lastly, if the EU does not act to harmonise rules, Member States may fill this legal vacuum by adopting national rules, resulting in a fragmented internal market. This risk is tangible, as some countries are already considering the introduction of national regulations for certain categories of specialised nutrition which are no longer regulated by specific provisions at EU level.
The failure to recognize the importance of specialised nutrition products in tackling societal challenges such as rising rates of obesity, malnutrition, or food allergies will have negative public health consequences across Europe. As highlighted in the European Commission’s foresight study on “Delivering on EU food safety and nutrition in 2050”, policy makers across Europe must place nutrition and health higher as key priorities on the EU policy agenda.
The European Union must take responsibility and provide a policy framework that recognises the role of all specialised nutrition products and enables European citizens to access, identify and safely use the foods specially formulated for their specific needs. SNE urges the Commission to improve the status of specialised nutrition across the EU in its review of the Better Regulation approach.
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Notes to editors:
- Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE) is the trade association representing the interests of the specialised nutrition industry across Europe. SNE members are the national associations of 19 European countries including a majority of EU states and their members are the companies producing tailor made dietary solutions for populations with very specific nutritional needs. These include: infants and young children, patients under medical supervision, sportspeople, overweight and obese consumers, and those suffering from coeliac disease.