EFSA still not engaging with industry on botanical claims, say stakeholders

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Efsa, European food safety authority

Stakeholders in the botanicals industry have again highlighted their concerns regarding the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) approach to health claims regulation in a meeting with the authority last week.

Attended by representatives from the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA), the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), and the European Botanical Forum (EBF), the meeting was designed to provide industry groups with an update on the work EFSA is carrying out in the area of health claims and botanicals.

EFSA, which claims it is committed to “greater engagement with stakeholders”, ​said the technical meeting allowed it to brief industry on the most recent developments on the health claims it will assess as part of the EC Regulation on nutrition and health claims.

“This was a very good meeting and it gave us the opportunity to hear feedback from industry associations on our current work in the area of botanicals and botanical preparations,”​ said EFSA’s director of Risk Assessment Riitta Maijala.

No consultation

However, Patrick Coppens, secretary general of EBF and ERNA, told NutraIngredients.com this morning that EFSA is still not engaging enough with industry.

“We were happy to have this talk with EFSA as it shows they are open. But this is an exchange; it’s not a consultation, where stakeholders are invited to submit their comments, and where these comments are assessed,”​ he said.

Industry groups have repeatedly expressed concerns on EFSA’s scientific approach to assessing health claims, which they say privileges “gold standard” ​studies and which is equally applied to both generic (article 13) health claims and children’s and disease reduction claims (article 14).

According to the industry bodies, there should be a different type of assessment applied to the different claims.

“We have jointly called upon EFSA to support our request to stop the process and reassess the way in which the article 13 list should be set up and assessed. If EFSA continues as it does, the vast majority of claims will not pass, not because the claim is not justified, but because of the criteria that are applied. We believe that the economic ​consequences of such are too important to be ignored,” said Coppens.

EFSA said that In line with its “commitment to greater engagement”​ with stakeholders, it will hold another conference June to examine the latest developments in the area of health and nutrition claims.

Coppens said this is a welcome move, but said a similar conference held in November 2006 remained unfruitful.

“We did not have the feeling that our concerns (…) had been taken into consideration.”

“We therefore invite EFSA to take the opportunity to turn this event into a genuine consultation where comments are considered and good reasons given to accept or reject them and not to proceed until the legal and scientific aspects have been better clarified and agreed.”

EFSA’s agenda

EFSA has set out a timeline for assessing the article 13 claims as follows:

• End July 2009: Assess about 1000 main entries which have passed pre-screening and have not been substantially modified.

• End November 2009: Assess about 470 main claims that have been amended since their original submission in November 2008 but subsequently passed pre-screening

• Deadline to be determined: Assess the remaining 2700 claims.

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