The batch includes 14 negative and seven positive opinions issued by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and which the General Food Law section of the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCFCAH) took no issue with.
These are predominantly article 14 children’s health and disease reduction claims. The minutes of the meeting are due to be posted formally on the European Commission website this week.
Food giant Unilever was involved in two of the processed claims – one linking ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) and LA (linoleic acid) consumption to healthy growth and development in children. The other is its very strong plant sterols/cholesterol reduction claim.
"We have not yet seen any minutes from this meeting so it would not be appropriate to comment in detail, but we have heard informally that the Standing Committee has agreed in principle with the plant sterol and ALA claims submitted by Unilever,” said Unilever corporate media relations manager, Lucila Zambrano.
EFSA’s ALA/LA opinion was slightly curious in that it accepted the scientific backing for ALA/LA but deemed children already receive enough ALA and LA in their regular diets. In its opinion of August last year, it concluded that the “evidence provided does not establish a benefit” of additional fortification.
But Unilever said the Standing Committee had approved the wording of a claim regardless of EFSA’s opinion on the need for supplementing children’s diets with the nutrients.
“However, we understand that the Standing Committee has asked EFSA to develop the conditions of use for our claims on Disease Risk Reductions and essential fatty acids for children,” Zambrano added.
“We look forward to applying these claims to our products in the near future, and continuing to provide our consumers with the trust and confidence that our product marketing is supported by robust and scientifically sound science."
A European Commission spokesperson told NutraIngredients.com that some claims were being returned to EFSA for advice on use.
“This will allow them to be used in a coherent way,” the spokesperson said.
He said a draft procedure was in place to cover processing the next batch of something like 30 health claims.
Lorene Courrege, director of regulatory affairs at the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), said she was encouraged by indications from the EC that rejected claims would not be interpreted too broadly.
She cited a rejected Martek DHA claim in relation to children’s eye health that did not necessarily influence the EC’s interpretation of a similar Mead Johnson Nutritionals’ claim that drew a positive opinion from EFSA recently.
The SCFCAH is comprised of representatives of the EU’s 27 member states, and it has the capacity to challenge EFSA’s opinions from a risk management point of view, but did not after the claims were assessed and analysed at several SCFCAH meetings.
The fact the SCFCAH found no issue with EFSA’s opinions may be of concern to industry given the large number of negative opinions issued by EFSA to date, particularly in regard to article 14 claims, of which the Parma-based assessor has principally concerned itself so far.
After claims are voted on by the European Parliament they can then be written into the EU register and be authorised for use across the bloc.