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Drinks industry in the dark about blocked caffeine claims

By Lynda Searby , 21-Mar-2012

Europe’s coffee makers and energy drink manufacturers are perplexed as to why the EFSA-approved caffeine claims have been dropped from the draft positive list of general function claims.

There were originally five claims on the list: ‘caffeine helps to improve concentration’, ‘caffeine helps to increase alertness’, ‘caffeine contributes to a reduction in the rated perceived exertion/effort during endurance exercise’, ‘caffeine contributes to an increase in endurance performance’, and ‘caffeine contributes to an increase in endurance performance capacity’.

The first indication that these claims were in question came at the end of January when Paola Testori Coggi, director general of DG SANCO, revealed that the Commission was “reflecting on caffeine”.

Claims on hold

Following subsequent discussions between the Commission and member states, the claims were put on an ‘on hold’ list pending further consideration.

As to why this decision was taken, Europe’s coffee producers seem to be in the dark.

“We are aware of the fact some caffeine health claims have been put ‘on hold’ for further consideration of the Commission and member states. We do not formally know the reason why,” Francesco Tramontin, director sustainability with Kraft Food Europe, told Nutraingredients.com.

Similarly, energy drink giant Red Bull said: “Given EFSA’s positive opinion on the caffeine claims, we were surprised to learn about the delay in their adoption.”

Not even the European Coffee Federation, which represents the industry’s interests at an EU level, appears to know exactly what is going on.

Consumption level concerns

Speaking in relation to the two caffeine-related claims supported by the Federation, namely ID 736 (alertness) and ID 737 (endurance performance), secretary general Roel Vaessen told NutraIngredients.com:  

“We have not been officially informed why ID 736 and ID 737 have not yet been included in the list of permitted claims, but informal feedback suggests that authorities in some member states are concerned that health claims related to caffeine may cause an increase in consumption, especially of high-caffeine containing soft drinks.”

He dismissed the suggestion that health claims might lead to increased caffeine consumption, saying: “Any possible concern over excessive intake is unfounded because the claimed effects occur at normal consumption levels. EFSA has established an effective dose of 75mg caffeine for the alertness and concentration claims and a dose of 3-4mg/kg of body weight for the athletic claims, which would result in an intake of 210-280mg for a 70kg person. There is no scientific data to support any concern with these levels.”

In fact, he pointed out that these levels are even below the maximum recommended caffeine intake of 300mg/day for pregnant women.

He said the Federation is working to transfer the two claims from the ‘on hold’ list to the list of permitted claims. 

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