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MEPs authorise omega-3 infant eye health claim

2 commentsBy Shane Starling , 06-Apr-2011
Last updated on 07-Apr-2011 at 09:35 GMT2011-04-07T09:35:29Z

MEPs have authorised a DHA-eye health claim for infants
MEPs have authorised a DHA-eye health claim for infants

Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) have today narrowly rejected a motion to prohibit a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and European Commission (EC)-approved DHA omega-3 eye health claim on breast milk substitute products.

With 328 votes in favour, 323 against and 26 abstentions, the motion by Glenis Willmott (S&D, UK) and others to ban the claim failed to gain the necessary level of support after weeks of intense lobbying by the likes of Baby Milk Action to have the claim de-authorised due to safety and efficacy concerns.

The vote means Mead Johnson’s claim: "DHA intake contributes to the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age" can now enter the EU legislature and be used on breast milk substitute products like follow-on formulas aimed at infants between the ages of 6-12 months.

Infant formulas aimed at 0-6 month-olds will not be able to carry the claims and must continue to contain statements about the superiority of breast feeding.

Reaction

The omega-3 industry welcomed the vote, which it labeled a victory for European scientific methods.

“We are very happy to see the science, not the politics, prevail,” said Harry Rice, from the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED).

“Anything less than that may have been the final blow to a system that has received constant criticism from the get go.”

Patti Rundall OBE, policy director of Baby Milk Action, said:

“Authorisation of this claim hands the industry the marketing tool they desired - and brings the important process relating to health claims into disrepute. Although we lost today - the majority vote should have sent a really important signal to the Commission that the rules relating to infant foods are simply not good enough.

"If there really was evidence to support this claim, it should have triggered a review of the composition requirements to remove inferior formulas from the market.”

Cassie France-Kelly from leading DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) supplier Martek Biosciences was in Strasbourg for the EP vote and commented: We are pleased that science, innovation and choice prevailed today.”

The vote reinforced the scientific independence and credibility of the EU food safety and health claims system and was a positive outcome for parents who are entitled to relevant and scientifically validated information about the nutritional content and qualities of infant nutrition products.

This vote also emphasised the European Parliament’s support for companies who pursue important, science-based innovations that improve the health and nutrition of European consumers and fuel SME growth.”

2 comments (Comments are now closed)

MEPs did ot 'authorise' the DHA claim

Further to Mike Brady's comment readers should note that the headline and first para of this article are misleading. MEPs were not voting to authorise the claim - they only have the right to block a claim. The article should make it clear that the Resolution gained majority support of those in the room - but an absolute majority of all members - including the 58 who were absent - was need to stop the Commission authorising the claim. These articles are picked up all over the world so please try to report this accurately. Also please, why no mention of the intense lobbying carried out by the baby food industry! To read more please see: http://info.babymilkaction.org/pressrelease/pressrelease06apr11

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Posted by Patti Rundall, OBE, Policy Director, Baby Milk Action
08 April 2011 | 01h412011-04-08T01:41:35Z

More MEPs voted for the Resolution than against

From the comments of the Martek spokesperson you would never know that more MEPs voted to block the claim than supported it.

Clearly this vote is already being misrepresented by the industry to idealise products with no proven health benefits.

The many statements from organisations, experts and members of the public highlighted the lack of evidence for the claim and policy makers nationally and outside the European Union should pay attention to these. These are expert bodies including WHO, UNICEF, Save the Children, the UK Royal College of Paediatrics and Child Health, the Standing Committee of European Doctors (CPME), the European Midwives Association and the European Federation of Nurses Associations, COFACE (the Confederation of Family Organisations in the European Union), EPHA (the European Public Health Association) BEUC (the European Consumers Association), and in the UK, Sustain's Childrens Food Campaign, the National Childbirth Trust, the Baby Feeding Law Group and the International Baby Food Action Network.

Mike Brady
Baby Milk Action

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Posted by Mike Brady
06 April 2011 | 14h162011-04-06T14:16:43Z

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