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Leatherhead invests in GI health claim prospects

By Annie-Rose Harrison-Dunn , 06-Dec-2013

Leatherhead says it is putting funding aside for a low GI health claim case, before 2022 deadline
Leatherhead says it is putting funding aside for a low GI health claim case, before 2022 deadline

Leatherhead to invest in research for a Glycaemic Index (GI) health claim, which it plans to eventually present to EFSA. 

The move to invest  was sparked by a recent trademark case with pharmaceutical company Green Swan, which Leatherhead said opened discussions on nutrition and health claim regulation in court. 

Sukhbinder Gill, head of global regulatory services for Leatherhead Food Research, told NutraIngredients that the pharmaceutical case back in July confirmed some key principles and gave the firm a “green light” to continue providing its GI testing service to the food, beverage and ingredients industries.

“I think before that case there hadn’t been any interpretation of the legislation. So in the absence of interpretation there’s always a certain level of uncertainty."

He said that the 2006 EU nutrition and health claim regulation created “a lot of uncertainty” around GI claims and as a consequence had a “somewhat chilling effect” on their usage.

Trademark or claim?

With the nutrition and health claim regulation, a buffer, transition period was created for trademarks which existed before January 1st 2005. Rather than issuing a straight ban these companies were allowed to use the mark until 2022.

“The idea was that going forward if you had a trademark or used a brand or a logo that could be seen to be a health claim then that would need to be accompanied with an approved claim, but they had to recognise that there were already people that had existing trademarks and therefore it might have a disproportionate effect to suddenly ban those overnight,” Gill said.   

He said that Leatherhead is still working through what messages can go on product packs and would be contacting the Trading Standards to discuss this. However he said that this trademark revelation has meant that anyone who has had their product tested with Leatherhead can now use its GI logo without this being treated as a health claim. “It’s a route to messaging GI by getting around the current uncertainties."  

Investing beyond 2022

Since this transition period only takes firms up until 2022, Gill said that it is important to have a long-term aim.

“From our perspective what we propose to do is between now and 2022, is for those people that use our trademark under license having had the testing done by us, we will put a certain amount of funds towards compiling data and hopefully get to a stage where we can put through a claim for [EFSA] approval."

Gill said that it is not possible to put an exact figure to the investment at this early stage, but said the company anticipates building up a research fund using some of the revenue from licencing of the logo.

Mounting pressure from scientific community

In June this year scientists at the International Scientific Consensus Summit on Glycemic Index, Glycemic Load and Glycemic Response concluded that carbohydrates in different foods affect blood sugar post-meal differently, which could hold important health implications.

In a statement, the conference's attendees said that these implications warrant a re-examining of how GI and GL (glycaemic load) is communicated. “This should be supported by inclusion of GI/GL in dietary guidelines and in food composition tables,” they said.

“In addition package labels and low GI/GL symbols on healthy foods should be considered... More comprehensive high-quality food composition tables need to be developed for GI/GL at the national level.”

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