Scope of health claims regulation for beauty is a grey area

By Katie Bird

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags European union

Whether beauty foods and supplements fall under the EU health claims regulation is still a significant grey area, according to a new FSA consultation document.

The UK’s independent government body the Food Standards Agency has published an updated draft document to help manufacturers interpret the EU nutrition and health claims regulation.

One of the changes to the document, published late last year, is a section on whether the scope of the regulation will cover beauty claims for beauty food and supplements.

Although, the FSA document contains some very basic guidelines, it is still a very significant grey area, according to spokesperson for the agency Sarah Newman.

“This is a very new area for us and we have only recently started hearing from people who want to make beauty claims,”​ she said.

According to the FSA document, which is open for consultation by interested parties until March 23, it all depends on whether the claim can be seen as a matter of health.

The document cites attributes such as the condition of skin and the brightness of the eyes that could be thought of as a health issue, and says for these the health claims regulation is likely to apply.

However, there are some that appear to be on the borderline, according to the agency.

For example, claims relating to “glowing skin” could be interpreted as a health claim.

“Although there are no medical conditions associated with lack of glow, the average consumer may consider there to be an association with health, especially because we often talk of ‘glowing health’,”​ the report states.

‘Inexact science’

Deciding whether a claim falls into a beauty or health category is an ‘inexact science’ according to the FSA, which maintains it is likely to depend on the individual claim, its presentation and context, and consumer understanding and perception.

Companies wishing to make an anti-ageing claim, for example, should probably seek advice with the FSA before hand, Newman said.

Comments are welcome on the document for the next three months, which can be found here​, and Newman said beauty claims are likely to be one of the areas addressed in the consultation period.

If a product does make claims that fall under the health claims regulation then they must be submitted, along with their scientific substantiation, to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for judgement. However, EFSA’s clinical trial-weighted approach and its associated demands for data are notoriously thorough and the agency has recently rejected 70 percent of over 500 dossiers that were submitted for its approval.

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