EU omega-3 recommendations welcomed by industry

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Omega-3 fatty acids Omega-3 fatty acid Docosahexaenoic acid Nutrition Efsa

Major omega-3 suppliers have welcomed the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) omega-3 opinion on recommended daily consumption levels for EPA and DHA but will continue lobbying for higher levels.

EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) last week determined 250mg should be the labelling reference intake value for long-chain omega-3 fatty acids – most notably eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – 50mg higher than the previous European Commission draft opinion of 200mg.

Short-chain fatty acid, ALA (alpha linoleic acid), was also included in the recommendation at 2mg – reference levels that determine which products are able to bear the nutrition claim that a product ‘contains omega-3s’​ or is ‘high in omega-3s’ – ​a level the EC agreed with previously in its draft opinion.

Omega-6s such as LA (linoleic acid) were also included at a level of 10mg per day.

While there remains strong momentum within the marine-sourced EPA and DHA supply sector to convince regulators of the need to establish levels that may push above 500mg per day, the fact that progress is being made toward a daily intake level is welcomed by an industry that feels hamstrung by the lack of one across the EU – or indeed anywhere across the world.

“If these reference values are to be implemented, it would have worldwide significance, and possibly open the doors for further, more specific recommendations in the future,” ​Cassie France-Kelly, senior public relations manager at Martek Biosciences, told this morning.

“Martek has always encouraged its food partners to include meaningful levels of DHA omega-3 in fortified food products in order to provide real benefits to consumers, and this EFSA proposal will help ensure that the entire industry adheres to these standards and delivers quality, healthy products to consumers.

Jerry Luff, the business development and regional director in Europe at Australia-based DHA specialist, welcomed the decision.

“This is a very pleasing development that is in line with the scientific framework,”​ he said. “Discussions on this topic have been ongoing for some time so it is good to see that a recommendation has resulted from those deliberations.”


France-Kelly added the recommendation, which is due to be considered by the EC at a meeting on Wednesday, would help bring clarity to the sector despite the fact other unofficial recommendations from UK and US bodies suggested limits closer to 500mg per day for EPA and DHA.

”While there may be some confusion about how much omega-3 should be included in the daily diet for optimal health, the EFSA proposal will establish minimum levels acceptable for inclusion in food products in order to make specific labelling claims,”​ she said.

“This is a step in the right direction and will serve to minimise industry and consumer confusion.Martek continues to monitor this issue very closely and will certainly work to encourage any action that will establish clear standards for DHA labelling that are based in science and promote health and wellness.”

“These values can used in food labelling to facilitate comparison of the PUFA content of food products and to help convey the relative significance of the food as a source of PUFA in the context of a total daily diet, and can also be used to set appropriate conditions of use for health claims on PUFA,”​ said EFSA.

EFSA’s opinion

For the long-chain omega-3s – eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – the NDA concluded the EC’s level of 200mg was lower than the value supported by most recent evidence for heart health.

Consequently, the panel proposed a revised level of 250mg/day, which it said “is in agreement with most recent evidence on the relationship between the intake of these fatty acids and cardiovascular health in healthy populations."

Jack Winkler, director of the Nutrition Policy Unit at London Metropolitan University, expressed disappointment that the NDA opinion continued to reference ALA when it was well established in science that ALA did not deliver the same benefits as EPA/DHA.

He said the draft recommendations contained a “large number of unresolved issues”​ such as ALA and the imposition of bureaucratic deadlines, but said none of them were likely to be resolved when the EC considered the NDA’s opinion this week.

“Industry are taking the position that it is better to have something than nothing,”​ he said, “but grave concerns remain. Our lobbying efforts will continue.”

To access the opinion - Labelling reference intake values for n-3 and n-6 polyunsaturated fatty acids​ click here​ .

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