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EFSA proposes reference intake levels for omega-3, omega-6

By Lorraine Heller , 10-Jul-2009
Last updated on 13-Jul-2009 at 12:27 GMT2009-07-13T12:27:31Z

EFSA proposes reference intake levels for omega-3, omega-6

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has concluded that 250mg should be the labelling reference intake value for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids.

The proposals come in an opinion published this morning by EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies in response to a request from the European Commission.

The opinion includes proposed labelling reference intake values for omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA).

“These values can used in food labelling to facilitate comparison of the PUFA content of food products and to help convey the relative significance of the food as a source of PUFA in the context of a total daily diet, and can also be used to set appropriate conditions of use for health claims on PUFA,” said EFSA.

The opinion follows a request made by the European Commission in April to “give general advice on reference values for the purpose of labelling for fatty acids” in relation to the authorisation procedure for health claims.


The proposed labelling reference intake values provided by the Commission for evaluation by EFSA were intended to represent typical recommended daily intakes for adults.

For the long-chain omega-3s – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the Commission had proposed a value of 200mg. However, EFSA’s panel concluded that this was lower than the value supported by most recent evidence for heart health.

Consequently, the panel proposed a revised level of 250mg/day, which it said “is in agreement with most recent evidence on the relationship between the intake of these fatty acids and cardiovascular health in healthy populations.”

However, this level differs from the recommended total daily consumption level of EPA and DHA published in a recent draft regulation for establishing omega-3 nutrient content claims.

The amendment to the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation uses a level of 200mg per day of EPA/DHA.

In light of EFSA’s new recommendations of 250mg, the Commission may well be reviewing this draft regulation in order to avoid having two different standards for health claims and nutrient content claims.


The Commission had proposed a labelling reference intake value for plant-based omega-3 alpha-linolenic acid (ALA) of 2g. EFSA agreed with the Commission on this level.

Intake recommendations for ALA based on considerations of cardiovascular health and neurodevelopment correspond to 2 - 3 g ALA/day for energy intakes 1800-2700 kcal/day, said EFSA.

“The Panel considers that the proposed labelling reference intake value for the n-3 PUFA ALA (2g) is consistent with recommended intakes for individuals in the general population in some European countries based on considerations of cardiovascular health.”


Omega-6 fatty acids in the diet mainly consist of linoleic acid (LA) and to a lesser extent arachidonic acid (ARA).


The Commission had proposed a labelling reference intake value of 6g for omega-6 fats. However, EFSA’s panel said this is lower than mean intakes observed in Europe (between 7 and 19 g/d) and also lower than the lower bound of intake recommended by some national and international authorities based on considerations of cardiovascular health (8-12 g/d).

As a result, the panel proposed a new value of 10g for LA for cardiovascular health.

To access the opinion - Labelling reference intake values for n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids click here .

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