CRN Shares Two Legal Analyses: EU Health Claims Regulation, Maximum Nutrient Levels Could End Up Violating World Trade Organization Agreements

October 31, 2011

The legal analyses were performed, upon CRN’s request, by law firm Sidley Austin LLP.

Based on legal analysis it commissioned, the association the Council for Responsible Nutrition (CRN; Washington, DC) says there is potential for EU health claims regulations, once applied by the European Commission, to violate trade agreements set by the World Trade Organization (WTO). Moreover, a separate legal analysis has concluded that some RDA-based (Recommended Daily Allowance) maximum levels set by some regulatory bodies for vitamin and mineral supplements may also violate the WTO.

Based on the analysis, CRN says that the EU’s health claims regulations could violate WTO’s Technical Barriers to Trade (TBT). “In particular, while the text of the EU health claims regulation itself does not appear to violate the TBT Agreement as such, it is the application of that regulation by the European Commission on the basis of several of the European Food Safety Authority recommendations that is anticipated to violate the EU’s obligations under the WTO agreement because it is more trade restrictive than necessary to achieve the EU’s objective of preventing misleading health claims,” said CRN in a press release.

Moreover, the second, separate analysis undertaken examines the RDA issue. “The Codex Vitamin and Mineral Food Supplement Guideline, finalized in 2005, specifies that maximum levels of these nutrients in food supplements should be based primarily on risk assessment, and not on the RDAs,” CRN stated in its press release. “However, many countries still impose RDA-based limits for vitamin and mineral supplements and have not yet updated regulations that may have been in effect prior to the Codex guideline. Other countries regulate these supplements as ‘drugs’ in the mistaken belief that this practice will exempt them from the Codex guideline. In contrast, both relevant WTO Agreements-the TBT Agreement and the Sanitary and Phytosanitary (SPS) Agreement-overtly require risk assessment as the basis for restrictions on international trade, and thus prohibit these practices.”

CRN says that both topics will be covered at the upcoming scientific symposium “Nutrition Issues in Codex: Health Claims, Nutrient Reference Values, and WTO Agreements” being held during CRN-International’s (CRN-I) second scientific symposium, taking place November 11 in Germany.

The legal analyses were performed, upon CRN’s request, by law firm Sidley Austin LLP.