EFSA has approached an expert who has already worked with its health claims panel to make a report on the characterisation of probiotic strains – an issue that led to the rejection of 260 out of 300 probiotic health claim dossiers - and most of which are being resubmitted.
EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) unit head, Dr Juliane Kleiner, said the expert had been approached due to their “extensive experience”.
“The contracting authority [EFSA] has discretion to select the specific tenderer who is invited to participate in such low value negotiated procedures,” Dr Kleiner said.
“This selection is based on the candidate’s experience and technical expertise in the field as well as on the legal requirement that the contractor shall not have any conflict of interest. The expert who has been invited to participate in the negotiated procedure has extensive experience in the area of characterisation of microorganisms and evaluation of health claims and has performed previous work for the NDA Panel related to the characterisation of microorganisms.”
“Therefore and in the light of ensuring consistency, this expert has been approached by EFSA to submit an offer.”
“One of us should take that opportunity”
Members of the probiotic academic community had mixed reactions to the need for such a report. Stephan Bischoff, PhD, professor and chair at the Department of Nutritional Medicine at the University of Hohenheim, welcomed it.
“I think it is a very positive signal that EFSA looks here for external advice,” he said.
“One of us should take that opportunity,” he said referring to the European pool of probiotic academics. “Preferentially someone familiar with the microbiological field.”
Ger Rijkers, PhD, from the University Medical Center in Utrecht, in the Netherlands, wondered about the need for the report. “I assume that most of the microorganisms are already sufficiently characterised – at least, that is what the NDA panel stated in their evaluations – but they have published once or twice a list of strains which were not fully characterised.”
The report tender comes as those 300 probiotic rejections are likely to be reassessed by the NDA after characterisation and other scientific issues gained a sympathetic hearing with the European Commission.
“EFSA launched a negotiated procedure for preparatory work in relation to the characterisation of certain microorganisms in the context of the reassessment of certain Article 13 health claims,” EFSA press chief, Steve Pagani said.