Claiming right, having left
Chris Ryder, University of Reading
We've successfully avoided mentioning it so far, but it can't be put off any longer. If health claims are regulated by the European Food Safety Authority and the European Commission, what happens when the UK leaves the EU?
It's a fair question and bound to be an area of concern, especially for food manufacturers, who have already told us that they would prefer a greater amount of regulation in what they can and can’t say rather than less.
At this point in time, the short answer is "not much". The UK Government has provided a list of both health and nutrition claims that can be used in the event of a no-deal Brexit, as well as another that helps to deal with claims that are 'on hold' – that is, they are still under consideration by the EU.
But what about in the longer term? Strictly speaking, since the recommendations and decisions of EFSA and the EC are publicly available, there's probably no reason that the UK couldn't continue to use the same list as the EU going into the future – but, of course, there's no guarantee that it will. It may instead mean that the UK will set up its own decision panels to tackle the weight of scientific evidence behind new claims that have been applied for.
The main problem is that none of this is very certain yet. Right now, the best thing consumers can do is to learn about health claims as they are now so that they have a good understanding to make use of if things change for the UK. And if we're to model our regulations on those of the EU, it's important to make sure that they are appropriate and right for all stakeholders sooner rather than later.
It's another reason why we believe our project is so important, as it can help achieve both of these goals.
Look out for updates next week when we will be releasing our web app and allow you to get directly involved with our research!