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The US and Europe, two approaches to the relationship between food and health

The United States and Europe, two major continents which apply different legislation to food products and where, in the case of olive oil, their differences are even more at odds. The United States permits claims about a product, providing a clearer, easier way for consumers to be informed through labeling; Europe, however, only allows claims in connection with a product's components. These are two major trading blocs that address the issue in completely different ways and which now want to sign a trade agreement in which this type of issue must be resolved.

United States

The United States, which permits the inclusion of claims in product labeling, allows olive oil to inform on its label that it's a product with positive health effects. It is important to note that, for the last decade, the health authorities in the US have allowed olive oil to advertise as a "heart healthy product"; in contrast, the main olive oil producing continent cannot highlight these facts in product promotion or labeling.


Historically, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) have not agreed on the authorization of certain products for sale in their jurisdictions, and labeling has embodied this type of problem, which arises for companies when they want to sell their goods. In December 2013, European Regulation 432/2012 of 16 May 2012 entered into force, establishing a list of permitted health claims made on foods, other than those referring to the reduction of disease risk and to children’s development and health. This is a major achievement which aims to respond to a question posed frequently by consumers: why doesn't the European Union allow claims that are authorized by the US FDA?

The European Commission has not included specific products (except for very few cases) in the regulation, focusing only on the active compounds found in foods: vitamins, minerals, fatty acids, etc.

However, the EFSA has recognized three claims which will be permitted in product advertising and which focus on the healthy qualities of three elements found in their composition:

1. The replacement of saturated fats with unsaturated fats in the diet contributes to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. Oleic acid is an unsaturated fat.

2. Olive oil polyphenols contribute to the protection of blood lipids from oxidative stress.

3. Vitamin E contributes to the protection of cells from oxidative stress.

The US and Europe, two major trade blocs with different points of view which must find a common ground, even though commercial interests often delay regulatory decisions.

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