In 1977 the first European Union Directive covering foodstuffs intended for particular nutritional uses was adopted. It has undergone several revisions during the years, the last of them in 2009. Due to the evolution of the European food market and legislation, in June 2011 the European Commission proposed a new framework which a year later, in June 2012, was debated at the European Council and the European Parliament. In November 2012, an after three rounds of trilogue, both the Council and the Parliament reached an agreement, which resulted in the Council position being published in April 2013 and unanimously adopted by the Parliament at second reading the 11th June 2013.

The new regulation intends to protect vulnerable consumers and to clearly distinguish between foods for normal consumption and those addressed to three specific groups: infants and young children, people with specific medical conditions and consumers of meal replacements. This framework, which is no longer built around the obsolete concept of "dietetic foods" (that generated confusion among citizens and stakeholders) intends to put an end to the unclear labeling that allowed some companies to evade stricter European legislation.

One of the most relevant infant food measures that the new framework includes is the ban of the idealised marketing on baby formulas, so that breast-feeding is not discouraged. However, the marketing of the controversial follow-on formulas, that are addressed to babies over six months and offer no nutritional advantages from the infant formula, will not be prohibited as many health campaigners had requested.

The new regulatory framework, that also includes a list of the substances (i.e. vitamins, minerals) that these three groups of foods can contain, will apply after a three year transition for businesses to accommodate their commercial practices.

For more information please visit DG Sanco’s website.


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Last modified on August 7 2013.