French cranberry claim unaffected by EFSA stance, says Ocean Spray

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Ocean spray Cranberry

The world’s only officially mandated cranberry health claim will not be affected by the recent rejection of a similar claim at European Union level, according to the company that submitted the claim, Ocean Spray.

The global cranberry leader, Ocean Spray, said the status of the French urinary tract infection (UTI) claim was not under threat as it was a general rather than a product-specific claim, like Ocean Spray’s claim EFSA dismissed in February.

Business as usual

“Our claim was in regard to a specific products and will have no bearing on the French claim,”​ Jonathan Duffin, the director of business development at Ocean Spray in the UK, told this morning.

“We have been in contact with EFSA about why that claim was turned down and are reviewing our options there. But it is business as usual because that claim would have given us an extra marketing tool throughout the EU and takes nothing away from our existing communications.”

Ocean Spray’s article 14 (children’s and disease reduction claims) UTI-related submission to the EU nutrition and health claims regulation was rejected by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) which took issue with much of the science present in Ocean Spray’s dossier.

Its Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) found studies used different formulations to those proposed in the claim, had small sample populations or lacked a control group, or were not sufficiently lengthy or had high drop-out rates.

Article 13 to the rescue

But Ocean Spray noted many more general claims that relate to the consumption of the antioxidant-laden cranberry fruit in any form, rather than specific cranberry products, were awaiting adjudication along with 1000s of others on EFSA’s generic article 13.1 claims list.

Included in this list was the French claim approved by the AFSSA (Agence Francaise de securite sanitaire des aliments) that states in part that consuming North American cranberries (Vaccinium macrocarpon)​ with at least 36mg of proanthocyanidins (PAC) can, “help reduce the adhesion of certain E. coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls.”

EFSA is due to pass opinion on this claim, along with more than 4000 others, by the end of January, 2010.

New system, new rules

Duffin said Ocean Spray had been in “constructive dialogue” ​with EFSA about where its article 14 dossier had fallen down and what was required to meet the strict criteria being followed by the Parma-based assessor.

Although Ocean Spray had spent more than nine months and a large amount of money on its dossier, and worked with claims experts and consultants, he said failure, while not expected, was a symptom of a “brand new system that everyone is still working out how to use”.

“The feedback from EFSA has been good,”​ he said. “We have a much better idea of the kind of data we need to gather if we are going to have one of these claims approved. It is important to remember that we were one of the first brands to go forward under this process and much is being learnt. We didn’t quite make it this time but we are reviewing as a team how to go forward to meet the criteria.”

He wouldn’t be drawn on whether or not this meant commissioning more product-specific clinical trials, adding: “There are no quick fixes.”

He said cranberry juice sales in the UK had not fallen since the beginning of the recession and the company was engaged in a prominent six-week television advertising campaign to maintain its position as the number three selling juice in the UK behind orange and apple.

EFSA’s verdict on Ocean Spray’s article 14 UTI claim can be read here​.

The dossier recommended consuming Ocean Spray cranberry products containing 80mg of cranberry PAC per serving.

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