New EU health claims legislation may mean that bakers can no longer make on-pack health claims for fortified breads, such as those fortified with omega-3.

The regulation (EC 1924/2006), set to be ratified in the summer and then phased in, covers nutrition and health claims made on foods. It will mean "massive change for the food industry", said ingredients supplier Bakels’ head of product development Dr Gary Gibbs.

He said the legislation, which was pushed through at speed before the end of the Finnish EU presidency, means all health claims will have to be authorised by the EU and go on an approved list.

Even straightforward claims such as "fibre is good for the digestive tract" were not yet ratified onto the list, he said.

Claims without robust scientific evidence behind them would not be allowed. And the legislation says that the level of the ingredient used in the product must give a demonstrated health benefit before any health claim can be made on-pack or in commercial documents such as adverts.

He commented: "Omega-3 probably would not pass for some of the health claims in products, as the levels of omega-3 are so low. Oily fish is the only really good source of omega-3."

The regulation, which was published in January 2007, was also likely to prove expensive for food manufacturers if they wish to establish the case for new claims to be accepted, Gibbs said.

"Bakels regards this as a positive move, as it means that health claims must be backed by sound science, a principle we rigorously adhere to in our own NPD work. This legislation will provide a level playing field with everyone having to adopt the same standards."

l FSA chair Dame Deirdre Hutton will give the VIP Address at IFE07 at 12 noon on 20 March, entitled ’Food and drink: global risks, responsibilities and regulation.’