Light ale must not be barred by EU health claims legislation

Conservatives table amendments to controversial EU regulation

Brussels, 21 March 2006 -- Conservative MEPs are attempting to water down a controversial EU regulation so it does not call time on favourite names such as light ale, gluten free beer and low alcoholic drinks. The health claims regulation - which first appeared before the European Parliament ten months ago and has returned for its second reading - is intended to regulate the nutritional claims made on food labels (low in fat etc). But Light Ale would fall foul of the proposals because its name is indicative of its light colouring, rather than its calorific content, Sir Robert MEP, Conservative Deputy Leader in the European Parliament, said today.

The Health Claims legislation could also prevent many foods from making any claims about their health benefits. Claims such as '90% fat free' or 'healthy eating' ranges are likely to be outlawed in deference to a system of nutrient profiling: a subjective process of working out which foods are healthy and which are not, according to arbitrarily chosen levels of salt, sugar and fat.

Charities are also concerned that the Commission's plans would prevent them from endorsing products as part of health campaigns (eg. the British Heart Foundation) and Sir Robert will also be tabling amendments to enable scientifically substantiated endorsements to be made.

Sir Robert said:

"We all want to see clear labelling on food in the EU but setting arbitrary targets for levels of sugar and salt is not the best way of promoting a healthy diet. There is not such a thing as good or bad food, just good or bad diets.

"People should be free to make up their own minds about the food they buy providing all claims made on packaging can be backed up with scientific evidence.

"Light ale is still threatened by this legislation despite our efforts to get an exemption the last time this issue came before MEPs. The use of the word 'light' relates to the colour of the ale and has no relation to its calorific content. It's obvious it isn't a diet drink!

"Our traditional British ale is coming under threat from Brussels bureaucracy again and we will do our best to ensure it gets an exclusion."

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