Few are aware of it, but today marks the introduction of yet another restriction on our health freedom.
Today is the day the E.U.’s Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation comes into force, and what this means is that all health claims about food and supplement products are now illegal, except those that are on the European Food Safety Authority’s list of authorised claims. Read on and I’ll tell you just how short that list is.
It’s certainly no bad thing that companies will be prevented from making false or inflated health claims about foods and supplements.
I’m pleased, for example, to see the claim that cacao “improves emotional wellbeing, supports positive mood and increases relaxation” in the unauthorised category, along with a number of similarly false or misleading claims.
But this new regulation goes too far – way too far.
According to campaign group Alliance for Natural Health International, of 44,000 health claims submitted to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for consideration, just 222 have been approved.
When I spoke to Dr Robert Verkerk, founder and director of Alliance for Natural Health International, he said that he and his colleagues consider this new regulation “the greatest restriction on free speech related to natural healthcare ever seen.”
And that is because alongside all the misleading health claims that are now effectively illegal are many that are backed by solid scientific evidence.
The justification given by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) in these cases? “On the basis of the scientific evidence assessed, this claimed effect has not been substantiated.”
Astonishingly, the following claims have all been placed into that category and are therefore, as of today, illegal:
“Probiotics regulate intestinal flora, support digestive health, and support the body’s natural defenses”.
“Antioxidant vitamins and minerals act against age-accelerating free radicals.”
“Omega-3 EPA and DHA support normal emotional wellbeing.”
The claim that “vitamins and minerals are essential to sutstain physical and mental vitality while aging” is also now unauthorised, on the basis that it is “not sufficiently defined to be able to be assessed and the claim could not therefore be substantiated”. Really, EFSA? Really?!
Also banned is the claim that “fats are needed to absorb fat soluble-vitamins”. The verdict on that one was: “misleading as it contradicts generally accepted scientific advice, European, national and international authorities informing the consumer to reduce intake of this substance and would therefore convey a conflicting and confusing message to consumers.”
If you feel inclined to look up any of the examples I’ve quoted, they’re all on the EU Register of Nutrition and Health Claims.
Currently, the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation “only” covers the marketing and sale of products.
As Dr Verkerk told me, “The NHCR governs anything to do with health claims regarding commercial products – in other words, claims as to the health benefits of particular foods or food constituents in any product sold to the consumer.”
What this means is that as a journalist I can still tell you about the health benefits of, say, kale or walnuts – in other words, generic foods or food groups – without breaking the law.
But if I or any other health writer were to tell you about the benefits of a specific food or supplement product, this would be fully within the scope of the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation – meaning that unless the benefits cited appear on the list of authorised health claims, it would be illegal.
The authorities say that this clampdown on health claims protects the public.
But the main effect of this and similar legislation is that it makes it a lot harder for people to access information about natural approaches to health and healing – which in turn makes it harder for people to choose these over pharmaceutical drugs.
And many of us believe that is its true agenda.
As Dr Verkerk told me towards the end of our interview, “If you look at the history of natural healthcare, one inescapable conclusion is that there has been an extended turf war going on between it and orthodox medicine for hundreds of years. At the moment, the gloves are off, and governments in collusion with big business and the medical establishment seem determined to regulate natural healthcare out of existence, or at least keep it out of the mainstream.”
To find out more about the threats to your health freedom and how you can support Alliance for Natural Health in protecting it, visit its website: Alliance for Natural Health International (European readers) or Alliance for Natural Health USA.