Green-lipped mussel supplier welcomes EFSA rejection

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags New zealand green-lipped mussel Nutrition Mussel

The green-lipped mussel extract market will benefit from the negative joint health claim opinion delivered by the European Food safety Authority (EFSA) last week because it has highlighted one-size-fits-all problems in the market, according to a leading supplier.

Craig McIntosh, chief executive officer of New Zealand-based supplier, Waitaki Biosciences, said that the negative opinion would be beneficial to a market plagued by inferior material and meaningless claims.

He said the opinion issued by the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) had taken a “very generic view” ​of green-lipped mussel extracts and the claim itself - “joint and musculoskeletal system health”​ – was equally generic and difficult to support.

“This is the sort of bullish claim that blights the industry and not just in reference to green-lipped mussels but all products,”​ McIntosh told NutraIngredients.com this morning

“There simply aren't products out there – pharmaceutical or nutritional supplements – that can cover that range of issues.”

Some benefits

The opinion does in fact acknowledge that green-lipped mussel extracts can benefit osteoarthritis, but given no evidence is provided among healthy populations which are the target of the health claim, could not back a claim.

“What it is saying however (quite rightly) is that efficacy with osteoarthritis does not make it a generic cure all for muscoskeletal health, which has long been our position,” ​McIntosh added.

“Quality green-lipped mussel extarcts with high lipid levels – particularly omega-3 – have well established anti-inflammatory properties and published research identifies its efficacy with osteoarthritis along with other joint inflammation type ailments. Hopefully the EFSA opinion will encourage consumers to do their homework."

Waitaki has been involved in several initiatives to improve the quality of the green-lipped, or green-shell, mussel supply, and was therefore not surprised to find that the NDA found characterisation issues in the data it assessed.

"Characterisation and standardisation of GSM have been the main drivers behind our latest green-lipped mussel powder,”​ McIntosh said.

“The market is recovering from being swamped with a number of poorly manufactured and inferior products that technically qualify as green-lipped mussel but offer little, if any, health benefits. They often contain little or no omega-3, drastically reduced levels of lipids and those that are remaining have been processed in such a way that they suffer accelerated oxidation.”

EFSA’s opinion found that the green-lipped mussel extracts it scrutinised were not sufficiently characterised and that causality between consumption of the extracts and “joint and musculoskeletal system health” ​had not been demonstrated.

The NDA green-lipped mussel opinion can be found here​.

Origins, benefits and quality

Green-lipped, or green shell mussel extracts, are derived almost exclusively from the North Island of New Zealand, where conditions are most favourable for growing them.

Their joint benefits are thought to derive from the combination of omega-3 fatty acids, Glycosaminoglycans and phosphorylated glycogen.

The quality issue is one that has run for some time in the green-shell mussel industry and schemes have been instigated with the New Zealand Mussel Industry Council (NZMIC) to mark products with quality logos. But they have not really taken off and there remains no formal definition of a greenshell mussel extract save its Perna canaliculus​ source.

Typically, non-defatted greenshell mussel extracts sell for about €30 pre kilogram.

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