For the production of herbal infusions about 400 different parts of plants from more than 300 species are used. THIE has compiled all these materials in its Inventory List of Herbals regarded as Foodstuff . There is no common European legislation on raw materials which may be used in herbal infusions. In several Member States national plant lists exist which either categorize certain plant materials as food plant or as medicinal drug.

There are different histories of use of herbal materials as foodstuffs in Europe. In times of our ancestors, herbal and fruit infusions were well-known home remedies present in most households. They were used for curing all kind of common ailments like a cold or an upset stomach. But with the times the uses of the products changed and due to their pleasant aromatic flavour a lot of them were enjoyed as foodstuffs. Therefore, some plants still have a double function. They may either be used as a remedy or enjoyed as a foodstuff. A well-known example of this double function is camomile. This clearly demonstrates that for a lot of plant products it is not possible to classify them either as foodstuff or as medicinal drug. Therefore, the single product and its concrete way of use has to be evaluated in order to decide whether in this special case the product has to be regarded as a foodstuff or a medicinal product.

Substances, used either as food or medicine, derived from plants, fungi, algae or lichen are commonly referred to as “botanicals”. At EU level discussions on the legal framework for botanicals have been ongoing for some time now. The following relevant legislation is already in place:

  • Regulation (EU) 2015/2283 on novel foods
  • Regulation (EC) No 1925/2006 on the addition of vitamins and mineral
  • Directive 2004/24/EC on Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products
  • Regulation (EU) 62/2018 List of commodities for which MRLs are set

Health claims on plants and their preparations and the more general regulatory framework concerning the use of plants in foods have recently been considered under the REFIT procedure of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims made on foods. Accordingly, there are merits for further studying the potential harmonisation of the field of plants and their preparations, including the safety aspect.
THIE supports the harmonisation of the legislation of plant material for food use in order to improve the functioning of the internal market. As regards health claims for plants it is in favour of building on traditional use and has provided considerable information to substantiate health claims accordingly.