EFSA prepares to publish omega-3 reference intake values

By Lorraine Heller

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acid Eicosapentaenoic acid

EFSA prepares to publish omega-3 reference intake values
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is due to release an opinion as early as tomorrow on the labelling of reference intake values for omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.

The agency was asked by the European Commission in April to “give general advice on reference values for the purpose of labelling for fatty acids”​ in relation to the authorisation procedure for health claims.

In a call with NutraIngredients.com this morning, an EFSA spokesperson confirmed that EFSA has adopted an opinion on the matter – Labelling reference intake values for n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids – ​which it is due to publish “shortly”,​ and as early as tomorrow.

“These reference intake values can also be used by the European Commission to define the most appropriate conditions of use for health claims on these specific fatty acids,”​ said the spokesperson.

Low levels

Although the content of the opinion will not be known until its publication, it is suspected that the reference values for EPA and DHA could be as low as 200mg/d, which is the recommended total daily consumption level used in a recently released draft regulation on nutrition claims for omega-3 fatty acids.

According to Professor Jack Winkler, director of the Nutrition Policy Unit at London Metropolitan University, it would be highly unlikely that EFSA would recommend two different levels – for use with nutrition claims and health claims.

"If EFSA recommended any different reference value for EPA/DHA in ‘health’ claims, then the Commission would be using two different standards in the two types of claims,”​ he told NutraIngredients.com this morning.

"Doing that would make the Commission look ridiculous. It would shout to the world that the EC has not worked through the implications of what it is doing on claims. Therefore, it is inevitable that reference values EFSA produces will apply to both nutrition and health claims.”

However, a daily intake level of 200mg is considered to be at the lowest end of the spectrum for adequacy, and is well below levels recommended by the scientific community around the world. The average recommended intake should be at least 550mg/d, they say.

Nutrient claims

In parallel to the establishment of reference intake values for labelling, EFSA also said it expected to publish its opinion next week on Daily Reference Values (DRVs) for omega-3.

The draft amendment to the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation, which could result in omega-3 nutrient content claims being used across the European Union for the first time, is likely to be based on tomorrow’s opinion, said the spokesperson. “Our scientific work informs the work of the risk managers”.

The draft recommends levels of EPA, DHA and ALA that products must contain if they are to carry either ‘Source of omega-3 fatty acids’ or ‘High in omega-3 fatty acids’ label claims.

Those levels are 300mg of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) per 100g [and per 100kcal], or 30mg of the sum of EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) per 100g/100kcal for the ‘source of’ claim. For the ‘high in’ claim, the levels are double.

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