Weight management may gain from health claim challenges

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims, Nutrition

European regulation on permissible health claims may well be slowing down development of novel dietary supplement products, requiring greater industry cooperation in providing strong science, says one industry association.

Daniel Fabricant of the US-based Natural Products Association (NPA) told NutraIngredients.com that a general feeling of uncertainty over the research needed to make supplement health claims has affected the European market.

However, Fabricant suggested that in the current economic uncertainty, a stronger body of science behind specific weight management products could be a major boost in pushing sales.

Development decline

In findings from the market analyst Mintel, over the last two years, the overall number of supplements marketed as dietary products appears to have fallen drastically.

The group said that in 2008, the number of new supplement products launched in the bloc claiming to have some impact on weight control fell by 50 per cent to 56 new products, according to its Global New Product Database (GNPD).

Claim ‘confusion’

Fabricant suggested that the findings reflected an increasingly cautious approach from companies over the use of health claims in products due to suggestions of confusion over the scientific requirements needed to obtain European approval.

“Firms may invest and in some cases have invested significant resources in doing what they understood to be the correct regulatory path only to feel like the rules have been changed in the middle of the game so to speak,”​ he stated.

Under new regulation adopted back in 2006, approval from the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) must be sought in order to obtain health claims for products sold in the bloc.

However, Fabricant added that the seemingly strict stance taken by EFSA over health claims would likely benefit the industry over the long-term.

“I would imagine as specific ingredients already in the marketplace have more and more science behind them, supporting them and the positive news stories that go along with that, new product launches will have to have even more research pre-launch demonstrating [any potential] benefits,” ​he said.

Future costs

Looking to 2009, the NPA said it believed that even with these potential health claim concerns, the economy would be the biggest challenge for supplement makers. The association said that it was too difficult to predict in the current market whether dietary and weight control supplements would pick up over the next twelve months.

“Everyone has tough economic choices to make and is looking for ways to maximize operations, but with that said, there is a real opportunity for products that have a very strong scientific base,”​ stated Fabricant. “These products will be more valuable than ever before, and should do well even with the economic concerns.”

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