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Public Health Policy in the EU

Latest news on the public health policy of the European Union.

Patient rights in the EU
European Patients' Rights Day was on 16 May. The European Commission took the opportunity to list some of the rights and benefits afforded to patients in the EU.

European Month of the Brain
At the start of its 'European Month of the Brain' initiative, the European Commission has earmarked some EUR 150 million of funding for 20 new international brain research projects. It will bring the total EU investment in brain research since 2007 to over €1.9 billion. The 'European Month of the Brain' (#brainmonth) will highlight European research and innovation in the area of neuroscience, cognition and related areas through over 50 events across Europe this May. The initiative aims to showcase the latest achievements in the field, but also to urge a more decisive effort to combat brain diseases. It also aims at highlighting how studying the brain can revolutionise computing. The initiative comes as the profile of brain research has been raised recently with ambitious new projects in the EU (FET Flagship Human Brain Project) and the US (BRAIN project).

European test results on horse DNA and Phenylbutazone
Coordinated EU-wide testing for horse meat DNA and phenylbutazone, requested, and co-financed, by the European Commission in the wake of the horse meat scandal, reveal that less than 5 % of the tested products had horse DNA and that about 0.5 % of the equine carcasses tested were found to be contaminated with bute.

Ban on animal testing
The Cosmetics Directive provides the regulatory framework for the phasing out of animal testing for cosmetics purposes. It establishes a prohibition to test finished cosmetic products and cosmetic ingredients on animals (testing ban), and a prohibition to market in the European Union finished cosmetic products and ingredients included in cosmetic products which were tested on animals for cosmetics purposes (marketing ban). The same provisions are contained in the Cosmetics Regulation, which replaces the Cosmetics Directive as of 11 July 2013. The testing ban on finished cosmetic products applies since 11 September 2004; the testing ban on ingredients or combination of ingredients applies since 11 March 2009. The marketing ban applies since 11 March 2009 for all human health effects with the exception of repeated-dose toxicity, reproductive toxicity and toxicokinetics. For these specific health effects the marketing ban applies since 11 March 2013, irrespective of the availability of alternative non-animal tests.

Full EU ban on animal testing for cosmetics
11 March 2013 is the last deadline to phase out animal testing for cosmetic products in Europe enters into force. As of today, cosmetics tested on animals cannot be marketed any more in the EU. A Communication adopted by the European Commission today confirms the its commitment to respect the deadline set by Council and Parliament in 2003 and outlines how it intends to further support research and innovation in this area while promoting animal welfare world-wide.

EU health research on rare diseases
In the European Union, a disease is considered rare when it affects not more than 1 person in 2 000. This low prevalence is the common feature shared by all rare diseases, which altogether affect all biological systems. This nevertheless means that between 6 000 and 8 000 different rare diseases affect or will affect an estimated 29 million people in the European Union. The focus of rare diseases research in the Seventh Framework Programme (FP7; 2007-2013) is on Europe-wide studies of natural history, pathophysiology and on the development of preventive, diagnostic and therapeutic interventions.

New research on rare diseases
The European Commission has, on Rare Disease Day 2013, announced EUR 144 million of new funding for 26 research projects on rare diseases. The projects will help improve the lives of some of the 30 million Europeans suffering from a rare disease. The selected projects bring together over 300 participants from 29 countries in Europe and beyond, including teams from leading academic institutions, SMEs and patients' groups. The goal is to pool resources and work beyond borders, to get a better understanding of rare diseases and find adequate treatments.

Protection against exposure to hazardous chemicals
The European Commission has proposed to better protect workers from risks linked to exposure to chemicals at the workplace.

Overview of smoke-free legislation and its implementation in the EU
Protection from second hand smoke has improved considerably in the EU, according to a report published by the European Commission on 22 February 2013. 28% of Europeans were exposed to second hand smoke in bars in 2012 - down from 46% in 2009. The report is based on self-reporting by the 27 Member States, following the 2009 Council Recommendation on Smoke-free Environments (2009/C 296/02), which called upon governments to adopt and implement laws to fully protect their citizens from exposure to tobacco smoke in enclosed public places, workplaces and public transport. The report dispels concerns about smoking bans impacting negatively on the revenues of bars and restaurants, by showing that the economic impact has been limited, neutral and even positive over time. However, the report also illustrates that some Member States are lagging behind, in terms of comprehensive laws protecting public health, and enforcement.

EU drug markets report: key findings
Europe is entering an important new era in the supply and demand for illicit drugs -- a development which is challenging current policies and responses. This is according to the first joint EU drug markets report from the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction (EMCDDA) and Europol released today in Brussels. The two EU agencies have joined forces to provide the first strategic analysis of the European illicit drug market in its entirety. In the report, they describe a market which is increasingly dynamic, innovative and quick to react to challenges and one which requires an equally dynamic, innovative and agile response across Europe. The report unveils the ‘changing face of organised crime in Europe’: while, historically, the EU drug market has focused on specific drugs trafficked by specialised operators along well-defined routes, the contemporary market is more ‘fluid’, with new routes and multi-substance consignments becoming more common.

Towards a new EU law on Tobacco Products
The European Commission on 18 December adopted a landmark proposal to revise the EU Tobacco Products Directive. The proposal is a substantial revision of the current EU law and proposes new and strengthened rules on tobacco products.

eHealth action plan 2012-2020
The European Commission has unveiled an Action Plan to address barriers to the full use of digital solutions in Europe's healthcare systems. The goal is to improve healthcare for the benefit of patients, give patients more control of their care and bring down costs. While patients and health professionals are enthusiastically using telehealth solutions and millions of Europeans have downloaded smartphone apps to keep track of their health and wellbeing, digital healthcare has yet to reap its great potential to improve healthcare and generate efficiency savings.

EU rules on food additives, enzymes and flavourings
European Commission website on EU rules on food additives, enzymes and flavourings, with background information on relevant EU legislation, as well as applying for an authorisation

EU adopts list of approved flavouring substances
Flavouring substances in food will become even safer and more transparent thanks to two pieces of legislation adopted today by the European Commission. Only those flavouring substances featuring on the approved lists will be permitted for use by the food industry. Used to alter the taste and/or odour of food, flavourings substances have a long history of safe use in a wide variety of foods, such as soft drinks, confectionery, cereals, cakes and yoghurts, and have now been evaluated at EU level. These two new pieces of legislation will clarify and harmonise the use of flavouring substances within the single market: The first Regulation1 provides for a new EU wide list of flavouring substances which can be used in food and will apply from 22 April 2013, giving time for the EU food industry to adapt to the new rules. All flavouring substances not in the list will be prohibited after a phasing out period of 18 months. The second Regulation2 concerns transitional measures for other flavourings such as flavourings made from non-food sources and will apply from 22 October 2012. The new list includes over 2,100 authorised flavouring substances. A further 400 will remain on the market until EFSA concludes its evaluation. These have been used for a long time and have already been assessed as safe by other scientific bodies.

EU Regulatory Framework for Medical Devices and In Vitro Diagnostic Medical Devices
Ranging from simple sticking plasters to the most sophisticated life-supporting machines, medical devices and in vitro diagnostic medical devices are central to our health and quality of life. To ensure that these devices serve the needs and ensure the safety of European citizens, the European Commission has proposed two Regulations which are fit for purpose, more transparent and better adapted to scientific and technological progress. The new rules aim to ensure that patients, consumers and healthcare professionals can reap the benefits of safe, effective and innovative medical devices. The medical device sector is highly innovative, particularly in Europe and has an estimated market value of around EUR 95bn.

New Biocides Regulation - guide
New rules on biocides enter into force today. They will bring a significant boost to the protection of human health and the environment. Biocidal products are necessary for the control of organisms that are harmful to human or animal health or that cause damage to materials. But as their properties can also pose risks to humans, animals and the environment, they need careful regulation. The new regulation on biocidal products will increase the safety of these chemical products and simplify their authorisation on the EU market, improving their free movement on the internal market.

European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs
The home page of ESPAD – the European School Survey Project on Alcohol and Other Drugs. ESPAD is a collaborative effort of independent research teams in more than forty European countries and the largest cross-national research project on adolescent substance use in the world. The overall aim with the project is to repeatedly collect comparable data on substance use among 15–16 year old students in as many European countries as possible.

List of permitted Health Claims on food products - guide
Health claims on food labelling and in advertising, for example on the role of calcium and bone health or vitamin C and the immune system, have become vital marketing tools to attract consumers' attention. EU consumers now expect accurate information on products they buy, in particular on the health claims the products may put forward. Today, a list of 222 health claims has been approved by the European Commission. This list is based on sound scientific advice, will be used throughout the EU and will also help to remove misleading claims from the market before the end of the year.

EU Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods
The EU Register is for information only, showing: Permitted nutrition claims and their conditions of use Authorised health claims, their conditions of use and applicable restrictions, if any; Non-authorised health claims and the reasons for their non-authorisation; EU legal acts for the specific health claims; National measures mentioned in Art. 23(3) of Regulation EC 1924/2006. The Commission will update the EU Register when required, namely upon adoption of EU decisions on applications for claims or on changes to conditions of use and restrictions.

Medical devices
The diversity and innovativeness of the medical devices sector contributes significantly to enhancing the safety, quality and efficacy of healthcare in the EU. Covering a wide range of products, from simple bandages or sticking plasters to the most sophisticated X-ray equipment, the medical devices sector plays a crucial role in the diagnosis, prevention, monitoring and treatment of diseases. It also helps improve the quality of life of those with disabilities.

Animal Welfare Strategy 2012-2015 - guide
The European Commission has adopted a new four-year strategy (2012-2015) that aims to further improve the welfare of animals in the European Union.

Strategy for the Protection and Welfare of Animals 2012-2015 - EC Communication
The European Commission has adopted a new four-year strategy (2012-2015) that aims to further improve the welfare of animals in the European Union.

European Union Register of nutrition and health claims made on food
This European Union Register of nutrition and health claims made on foods (“the Register”) has been established as foreseen in Article 20 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 and is updated regularly. Some sections of this Register are missing and will be completed, as appropriate, following the procedures detailed in the Regulation and depending on the applications for authorisation of health claims.

List of permitted Health Claims for use on Food - guide
In a meeting of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, EU Member States supported the European Commission's draft Regulation to adopt a list of permitted health claims for use on food.

Antimicrobial Resistance - guide
With about 25,000 patients dying per year in the EU from infections caused by drug resistant bacteria and related costs of over 1.5 billion euros in healthcare expenses and productivity losses , antimicrobial resistance is a growing health problem in the EU. Today, on the eve of European Antibiotic Awareness Day, the European Commission tabled a comprehensive Action Plan on Antimicrobial resistance (AMR) which unveils12 concrete actions to be implemented in close cooperation with the EU Member States.