The French authorities have moved to settle the controversy over conflicting methodologies for quantifying PAC levels in cranberry extracts, determining that the new BL-DMAC method should be used by all companies using the French health claim.
In 2004 the French agency AFSSA (now Anses) approved a health claim for cranberries with 36 milligrams of PAC to “help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls”, and subsequently fight urinary tract infections (UTIs). The French health claim refers to 36 milligrams of PACs measured using the 4-dimethylaminocinnamaldehyde (DMAC) method, but AFSSA did not specify which method was valid for the health claim, and this has led to a range of methods being applied.
The method proposed by the European Pharmacopoeia and used by members of EuraCran (European Association for the Valorization of Cranberry Extracts) has been adopted by some players in the French market. There are also additional methods for measuring PACs available, and they all deliver different results. A common analogy is measuring temperature with Celsius and Fahrenheit – both measures give you the temperature, but not the same value.
Meanwhile, an updated method, called BL-DMAC has been published by the USDA-ARS (Journal of the Science of Food and Agriculture, July 2010, Vol. 90, pp. 1473-1478). All analytical labs previously using DMAC have now switched to this method.
France’s Directorate General of Competition, Consumption and Fraud Repression (DGCCRF) has now issued a communication stating that only products containing 36mg PACA as measured by the BL-DMAC can refer to the AFSSA claim.
It is reminding all operators that, if controlled, they will have to be able to characterise precisely the nature of the extract they are using, particularly the nature of the plant. Simply referring to the AFSSA opinion is not enough.
Moreover, any operators referring to analyses based on other protocols “will have to be able to justify the pertinence of his choice regarding the nutritional labelling and the proposed claim”.
Director Nathalie Homobono wrote: “The DGCCRF recommends all consumer pay the highest attention to the products offered on the market.”
Researching the market
The Directorate General has reached this conclusion after testing 39 samples of cranberry products on the French markets against seven different protocols, to determine which was the most suitable.
Interestingly, it chose not to test the EuraCran method, which it says was based on a standard originally developed for hawthorn, because during preliminary trials “this method has undoubtedly shown over-evaluation because of lack of specificity towards the researched PAC in cranberry-based products”.
The news has been welcomed by French supplements manufacturer Pharmatoka.
Gunter Haesaerts told NutraIngredients.com: “Most important is that in the near future, after a crackdown by the DGCCRF inspectors, French consumers will at last be able to choose those products that really contain 36 mg PAC measured by BL-DMAC in order to enjoy the bacterial anti-adherence effects of cranberry PAC against recurrent urinary tract infections.”
Haessaerts said he hopes this clarification by the French government “will enhance the chances of Pharmatoka’s petition for an artical 13 generic claim by EFSA”.
So far, however, EFSA has issued two negative opinions have already been issued by EFSA for cranberries and UTIs. It is not clear how the French health claim is affected by these.