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EFSA sweetens industry with positive sugar replacement health claim opinions

By Shane Starling , 13-Apr-2011
Last updated on 28-Apr-2011 at 13:08 GMT2011-04-28T13:08:49Z

EFSA's positive opinions have brought a smile to the face of the sweeteners industry
EFSA's positive opinions have brought a smile to the face of the sweeteners industry

Intense and bulk sweetener suppliers are basking in the glow of positive sugar replacement health claim opinions issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) last week.

EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) issued 442 health claim opinions, about 80% of which were negative, but nutrient replacement claims including sugars, fats and starches fared better than most.

The NDA found a host of sugar replacers worthy of dental and glycaemic response health claims, albeit with “excessive consumption“ laxative warnings for the bulk (polyol) sweeteners.

An Ajinomoto spokesperson said: “Given the benefits for everyone of maintaining a healthy weight, the challenges to public health of overweight and obesity, and the challenges to food and beverage manufacturers of producing sweet products that people enjoy while reducing the sugar content, being able to communicate the genuine benefits of products which replace sugar with low calorie sweeteners is important”.


Beneo Group vice president of regulatory affairs and nutrition communication, Anke Sentko, said ongoing communication efforts, which included the establishment of the Beneo Institute, had played their part in earning the positive opinions.

“That the role of functional carbohydrates in helping to maintain dental health as well as to follow a low-glycaemic diet was accepted by the panel is as we believe – next to the sound science – also a result of the intense explanatory work since 2009 and a finally constructive dialogue on all levels,” Sentko said.

French supplier Roquette’s global SweetPearl project manager, Valérie Le Bihan, concurred EFSA’s opinion was a boon for sweetener suppliers.

"The positive opinion from EFSA is a real step forward in the recognition of the nutritional benefits of polyols,” she said.
“It also comforts Roquette in our strategy involving many efforts in clinical studies on polyols and dental health."

Caroline Sanders, global marketing and communication director at Tate & Lyle Specialty Food Ingredients, said: "This confirmation is an important step to allowing Tate & Lyle‘s food and drink manufacturer clients to communicate the health benefits of our ingredients, in turn allowing consumers to make more informed purchasing decisions.

Comparitive claims

Beneo said such discussions had led to an acceptance of ‘comparitive claims’, which EFSA had initially indicated would not permissable under the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

“It shows that a solution was found out of the trap of the ‘comparative or replacement claims discussion’ in which many macronutrients, like e.g. health beneficial carbohydrates, were caught since 2009 when EFSA raised an eligibility issue with these type of claims in the context of the NHCR,” Beneo said.

“The Beneo Institute considers this evaluation as a step in the right direction for the whole Health Claim Regulation and will continue to explain those product health claims that are still pending.”

The opinion

The NDA found sugar replacers can decrease tooth demineralisation if four foods-drinks are consumed daily to reduce plaque pH but not below 5.7. Xylitol, sorbitol, mannitol, maltitol, lactitol, isomalt, erythritol containing products must include “excessive consumption may produce laxative effects” disclaimer.

The same range of sweeteners were also found to reduce post-prandial blood glucose response, but products bearing the claim must carry the same laxative warnings if polyols were used.

The opinion can be found here.

Starch, fats

Other replacement opinions included switching digestible starch with resistant starch in baked goods to reduce post prandial glycaemic responses and replacing saturated fatty acids (SFAs) with monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) and/or mixtures of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) to help maintain normal blood LDL cholesterol concentrations.

Correction: This article has been amended to clarify that it is only polyols that require laxative warnings.

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