But a February 10 meeting of the EC’s Standing Committee of Food Chain and Animal (SCFCA) found equanimity in cholesterol reduction for both Unilever-dominated sterols (pro.activ) and Raisio-dominated stanols (Benecol).
The EC ruling that will soon be written into EU law books follows a 2012 European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinion that daily intakes of between 2.6 g and 3.4 g for both plant sterols and stanols could reduce LDL cholesterol levels by 11.3% after 2-3 weeks of use.
Unilever welcomed the ruling that applies to the claim first won approval under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) in 2008.
“We are happy with the standing committee’s decision as it confirms the cholesterol lowering benefits of plant sterols, and – importantly - re-affirms the similar cholesterol lowering benefits of both plant sterols and plant stanols,” Unilever said.
“Unilever has always believed that both ingredients can actively lower LDL cholesterol.”
A Raisio spokesperson said the Finnish firm was disappointed with the ruling. It has submitted that at doses between 2.6 g and 3 g per day, the scientific literature showed stanols gave an average cholesterol reduction of 12%, compared to 8% for sterols.
The matter was taken up by Finnish Member of the European Parliament (MEP) Sirpa Pietikäinen last summer when she asked the parliament if grouping the two together at all doses was justified.
Unilever added: “Independent endorsement of the cholesterol lowering benefits of plant sterols enables us to continue talking to consumers through our products but also via our public health work that encourages people to test their cholesterol and with the brand’s support make diet and lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol.”
The standard article 14 disease risk factor reduction claim states stanols and sterols can reduce LDL-cholesterol by an average of 10 % in those with moderate cholesterol issues.
This month, the European Atherosclerosis Society (EAS) said 2 g of plant sterols or plant stanols per day in functional foods can help manage cholesterol for those with moderate heart disease risk and who are taking statin drugs.