Health scientists, researchers and members of the European food industry currently preparing a method for assessing scientific support for claims on food, is to focus on risk of diabetes, diet-related cancers and gut health in the coming months.
The European Concerted Action, called PASSCLAIM, is aiming to produce a generic tool with principles for assessing the scientific support for health-related claims for foods and food components. The experts will also evaluate the existing schemes in the EU and worldwide that assess claims and select common criteria for how markers should be identified and used in studies exploring the links between diet and health.
Last month we reported on the PASSCLAIM findings on bone health and osteoporosis. Reports on diet-related cardiovascular diseases, physical performance and fitness and a review of existing codes were also summarised in the March 2003 European Journal of Nutrition, as well as a draft set of interim criteria for the substantiation of health claims, produced following a recent workshop.
During its second year, the project is focusing on insulin sensitivity and risk of diabetes, diet-related cancers, mental state and performance and gut health and immunity.
PASSCLAIM builds on the results from a previous concerted action, FUFOSE, which was also co-ordinated by ILSI Europe. It developed the science base for functional foods and also defined the two health-related claims, an 'enhanced function claim' and a 'reduced risk of disease claim' (Brit. J. Nutr. 1999, 81, Suppl 1).
A new European directive is expected to regulate the approval of health claims in the functional foods industry - the EC draft proposal 'Regulation of the European Parliament and of the Council on Nutrition, Functional and Health Claims made on Foods' (SANCO/1832/2002) operates on nutritional, functional and health claims. But while most countries have adopted the nutrition claims following the Codex Alimentarius recommendations, functional and health claims have been more controversial, particularly regarding the influence of foods on disease.