Medicinal claims

Meulen, Bernd van der


Under EU medicinal law, substances presented as having properties for treating or preventing disease are medicinal products by virtue of their presentation. EU food law prohibits attributing to any food the property of preventing, treating or curing a disease. However, if certain conditions are fulfilled, it is allowed to make health claims for foods. Authorities in the Netherlands take the position that the EU prohibition on medicinal claims for foods is redundant because all products with such claims are medicinal products by virtue of their presentation. Thus, claims not (fully) authorised are enforced as infringements on medicinal law. The author systematically and comparatively analyses the food law prohibition on medicinal claims in relation to the concept of medicinal product by presentation. He argues that the presentation criterion is structural in nature and depends on the overall impression an averagely well-informed consumer acquires regarding a product. The prohibition on medicinal claims is behavioural in nature. It is possible to promise consumers too much regarding beneficial properties of a food without actually making them believe that the food is a medicinal product. The author argues against the Dutch interpretation and in favour of an interpretation adhered to by most other EU Member States.