European Food Safety Authority approved Health Claims for foods in Europe

Posted by AFN Staff Writers on 15th August 2012

European consumers may soon be able to make more informed choices about their diet after scientists from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) NDA panel reached a milestone in health claim assessment. Recently published evaluations, from more than 3 years of work by EFSA experts, details the findings from an assessment of 2,758 food-related general function health food claims to identify whether they were backed by sound scientific evidence.

These new findings will now assist the European Commission and Member States in establishing a list of claims authorised for food, a breakthrough that will also benefit European consumers.

There was a favourable outcome for approximately one in five claims reviewed when sufficient evidence was provided in support of the claims. Unfavourable outcomes were predominantly due to a lack of information to identify substances on which the claim was based. For example claims on “dietary fibre” could not be substantiated without specifying the particular fibre. Those claims failing to reach a favourable outcome were also due to a lack of reliable scientific human study with reliable measures on the health benefits.

Chair of EFSA’s NDA Panel Professor Albert Flynn said, “this very challenging task was completed thanks to the dedication and commitment of the experts on the NDA Panel in collaboration with ESFA staff, who have had to cope with an unprecedented workload, coupled with very tight deadlines and often poor information.

Types of Claims

EFSA’s independent evaluation concluded that a considerable number of claims made on foods are backed by sound science, including claims related to a wide range of health benefits.”

Claims assessed include those relating to:

–          Vitamins and minerals

–          Specific dietary fibres relating to blood glucose control, blood cholesterol, or weight management

–          Live yogurt cultures and lactose digestion

–          Antioxidant effects of polyphenols in olive oil

–          Walnuts and improved function of blood vessels

–          Meal replacement and weight control

–          Fatty acids and functions of the heart

–          The role of a range of sugar replacers (such as xylitol and sorbitol) in maintaining tooth mineralisation or lowering    the increase of blood glucose levels after meals

–          Carbohydrate-electrolyte drinks/creatine and sports performance

Yakult still missing

The latest findings highlight the fact that some products marketed with claims to food-related general function claims, such as the Japanese dairy firm Yakult, may not have any scientific evidence to support such claims. The fact that Yakult was not included in the list of successful claims for 2012 means it did not pass EFSA’s independent evaluation or did not produce the scientific evidence sought by the EFSA.

FoodLegal Symposium

Meanwhile in Australia the food compliance risk assessors FoodLegal have brought together Australia’s leading food regulators and industry experts for a symposium in Sydney on Tuesday 21 August 2012 to discuss Health Claim issues. The FoodLegal Symposium is being followed by a further round of consultations by the government agency FSANZ, with stakeholders a day later. Registration for the FoodLegal Symposium must be pre-booked, and can be done online here.