The European Parliament has vetoed a health claim linking carbohydrate consumption to normal brain function after objections that it could promote sugar consumption.
The claim, that “carbohydrates contribute to the maintenance of normal brain function”, was rejected by just one vote by the parliament’s Environment, Public Health and Food Safety Committee last week, despite an EFSA panel’s conclusion in 2011 that “a cause and effect relationship has been established between the consumption of glycaemic carbohydrates and maintenance of normal brain function”.
Some member states had suggested that the authorisation of such a claim could be “potentially confusing to the consumer, particularly in light of national dietary advice to reduce sugars consumption.”
The Commission had said that further analysis was needed to set conditions on the use of the claim, and had set out a number of proposed restrictions for its use, including complying with the nutrition claims for ‘low sugars’ or ‘no added sugars’.
However, MEPs argued that there was a lack of scientific rigour to the Commission’s restrictions to the health claim and inconsistency in its general approach to nutrient thresholds. Under the Food Information for Consumers regulation, products must list only the total amount of sugar in a product, without differentiation between added and naturally occurring sugars.
And the Commission recently allowed a claim for cocoa flavonols in chocolate for example, without setting limits on fat content.
The Commission argued that its proposed restrictions did not constitute setting nutrient profiles, and pointed out that differentiation between types of sugars was not new, as it was already allowed through the nutrition claim “no added sugars”.
Greens/European Free Alliance MEP Carl Schlyter called the carbohydrate claim “ridiculous”, arguing that there was no evidence for a carbohydrate deficiency in Europe and likening its usefulness to a claim that oxygen contributes to normal lung function.
“EFSA is right. This contributes to normal brain function…but there is no benefit of this health claim,” he said.