18 april 2012
By Bert Schwitters
On the 27th of April 2012 lapses the ‘scrutiny’ period during which the European Parliament could have opposed the European Commission Regulation that installs a positive list of Union-authorised health claims that may be made in the labeling and advertisement of foods and food supplements. The list forms part of a public State-register and highlights the fact that Regulation 1924/2006/EC, the European Regulation that set this process in motion, made a definite and irrevocable end to freedom of commercial speech in the field of nutrition and health.
Lest we forget, the Claims Regulation not only prohibits misleading commercial statements, it also prohibits correct, informative and non-misleading statements made by food business operators. The European Parliament doesn’t seem to mind. It follows the common political opinion that words spoken by industry and business are inherently dangerous and fraudulent and need to be checked a priori, i.e. before they’re stated. The Health Claims Regulation takes this even a step further, in that it gives the Union full control over speech and replaces industry and business as sources of health-related information with a State-register of authorised statements.
Lest we forget, this time, it’s the right to speak of nutrition and health that was destroyed. What’s next? Today, ‘commercial communicators’ were deprived of the human right to speak truthful words. Who’s next?
The window for requesting the European Court to destroy the Health Claims Regulation closes towards the end of July 2012, two months after the expected publication in the Official Journal of the Commission Regulation. Once this window is closed, there may be no other opportunities to shed light in the black-out imposed by the Claims Regulation. Now is the time to speak up. The European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation must be destroyed, so that the right to speak truthful words may be resurrected.