While it was becoming clearer just what was required to have claims approved by EFSA, the fact this had not always been the case meant dossiers had been submitted that had little chance of success under current criteria.
"EFSA's commitment is great and will help take us forward,” said Dr Judith Bryans, director of the Dairy Council.
“It is absolutely right that health claims made on foods are underpinned by science which has been carefully assessed. But, the bureaucracy is stifling and inhibits our efforts to teach people how to construct a healthy balanced diet which contains all the recommended food groups."
The Dairy Council said a common sense approach was needed and an eye kept on the ultimate goal of health claims which is to provide consumers with useful information about health eating choices. "With that regard, the global dairy industry is backing the concept of nutrient density, an approach I wholeheartedly support,” Dr Bryans said.
“Nutrient density, or nutrient richness, is a positive science-based approach to nutrition education and in my view it is the right approach. For too long, people have been told how to eat by being told what not to eat and that approach is obviously not working since rates of obesity are still rising, It's time to remind people in clear and understandable language what they can eat and the importance of being active."
One of the first verdicts delivered by EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) back in August rejected two claims submitted by the Irish National Dairy Council linking dairy product consumption with ideal body weight and reduced incidence of dental carries in children.
EFSA took issue with these claims because causality was not proven but also because the kind of dairy products in question were not sufficiently defined.
“If every substance has to be characterised, then that presents a major problem for generic claims because for most of them the substance, by its very generic nature, is not characterized,” Patrick Coppens, the secretary general of Brussels-based industry group, the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA), said at the time.
“If the same criteria applied here for dairy products are applied to fruits and vegetables then no fruits and vegetables will be able to make health claims. Which is preposterous.”
Such claims form the 4000-strong article 13.1 generic list, from which the 1000 EFSA opinions are due by the end of July.