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EFSA health claim opinions

EFSA slams door on probiotic health claims (again); Prunes pass

By Shane Starling , 06-Jun-2012
Last updated on 12-Jun-2012 at 11:46 GMT2012-06-12T11:46:22Z

EFSA slams door on probiotic health claims (again); Prunes pass

Hopes that the resubmission of 74 probiotic health dossiers would win a sector-first claim in the EU have been dashed after the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) held its earlier line and unanimously rejected them all.

With them EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) also refused claims for vitamin K2 and heart and blood health; lutein and eye health; isoleucine-proline-proline (IPP) and valine-proline-proline (VPP) and blood pressure.

But prunes won a reprieve for their ability to benefit bowel health, making it the first claim to provoke the NDA to approve a previously rejected claim.

Alpha-cyclodextrin was also approved for reduced post-meal glycaemic responses.

Heavyweight probiotic researchers rose to condemn EFSA’s latest rejection of what they view as perfectly valid and significant science demonstrating gut health and immunity benefits especially.

Typical was Ger Rijkers, PhD, from the Department of Surgery at the University Medical Center Utrecht, who said the latest EFSA snub of his life’s work was no shock.

“This comes as no surprise whatsoever,” relayed professor Rijkers. “However, at this stage it becomes more and more pathetic how this committee tries to come up with yet other arguments to reject a claim application.

“We probably will have to wait for a full replacement of the panel  - new judges - before there will be any chance that a probiotic health claim application will get a fair trial.”


Glenn Gibson, professor of Food Microbial Sciences at the University of Reading in the UK, said the opinions were disappointing if not unexpected but said the stance would not halt probiotic research.

What more should we expect from such an amateurish process which continues to ensure that European bungling in this important area of public health continues to snatch defeat from the jaws of victory?” Gibson wondered.

“But this is not the final nail in the coffin – the science will continue to show the value of these products." 

“If European bureaucracy keeps deciding against claims then more fool the decision makers, at least consumers in the Americas, Asia, the Pacific Rim can look forward to hearing about the benefits.”

Rejected strains included Lactobacillus casei DG CNCM I-1572; Saccharomyces boulardii; Propionibacterium freudenreichii SI 41 and Propionibacterium freudenreichii SI 26; CNCM I-1720 and Lactobacillus helveticus CNCM I-1722; Lactobacillus fermentum 57A, Lactobacillus plantarum 57B and Lactobacillus gasseri 57C; Lactobacillus gasseri PA 16/8, Bifidobacterium bifidum M 20/5 andBifidobacterium longum SP 07/3 and Saccharomyces cerevisiae var. boulardii CNCM I-107.

Veteran probiotic researcher, Gregor Reid, PhD, director of the Canadian R&D Centre for Probiotics at the Lawson Health Research Institute, and The University of Western Ontario, Canada, added, “the system has to be revised.”

If an EFSA-type panel is to be in a position of adjudication, it should be for level three documentation only, and the committee should be changed to comprise experts in probiotics and clinical studies of foods and supplements.”

Positive prune movement

In a 2010 opinion, the NDA said there was insufficient evidence to back the ability of dried plums (‘prune’ cultivars (Prunus domestica L.) to promote healthy bowel movements.

But in scrutinising the re-submission it took into account that, “two human intervention studies showed an effect of dried plums on bowel function” and therefore concluded 100g per day could deliver the benefit.

A list of the latest NDA opinions can be found here.

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