French newspaperLes Echos reported on Tuesday that German health officials, meeting with other health ministers earlier this week, had reversed their position on article four, one of the most controversial elements of the regulation proposed by the European Commission in 2003.
The paper said that Germany, formerly a strong campaigner against the article, had finally 'lent its support to the principle of nutritional profiles'. However a spokesperson for EAS, which advises companies and governments on European regulation and policy, said that the report misinterpreted comments made by the German delegation.
"Germany still wants the deletion of article four but believes it should be replaced by something else," Miguel Da Silva of EAS told NutraIngredients.com.
Article four would require all foods carrying a health claim to conform to a particular 'nutritional profile', preventing products with a high sugar, salt or fat content from carrying a claim.
The food industry has attacked the article as being unworkable and most member states admit that the article could be very difficult to implement. A new stance by Germany could therefore prove influential.
The European health claims regulation has been one of the most controversial discussed in recent times, resulting in more than 600 amendments tabled to the European parliament's report last spring.
The parliament's environment committee, responsible for presenting the regulation to the plenary, was forced to postpone the vote until after the parliamentary elections in June.
The parliament's new rapporteur for this regulation, Italy's Adriana Poli Bortone, is scheduled to present a revised version of last year's report to the environment committee on the 3 January.
She is said to be aiming for a shorter report with a focus on the main issues of contention. However even cutting amendments down to 200 will prove challenging.
Discussions in the European council are not made public until after the first reading at European parliament level but the council and its expert working groups prepare their position on regulations in parallel with parliamentary committees.
The environment committee will meet to discuss the draft on 2-3 February 2005, with the deadline for amendments set at 16 February. The first reading in parliament could go ahead by the end of May, according to the EAS.