EFSA to hold May health claims summit

By Shane Starling in Brussels

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Efsa executive director, European union, Nutrition

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will host a May summit at its Italian headquarters that will provide a rare opportunity for direct dialogue between stakeholders and the agency’s health claims panel.

EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle told the 4th Nutrition and Lifestyle conference in Brussels yesterday the Parma summit would, “provide a platform for open debate between industry and the NDA [Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies]​.

She provided no further detail about the event.

In her wide-ranging presentation about EFSA activities, some of which NutraIngredients reported yesterday live from the event, Geslain-Lanéelle said the agency continued to work on dietary reference values (DRVs) and nutrient profiles.

Dietary habits

The agency had begun exhaustive reappraisal of dietary habits within the European Union after it was determined that existing data did not cater for the differences that existed between the bloc’s member states.

“The consumption data that exists is some of the best available but it is not suitable for EU-wide or country-by-country data,” ​she said.

The “mid-term project”​ would run between 2012 and 2017, with preparation being undertaken this year and in 2011.

“We are very excited by this project and what it will bring to risk assessors.”

Such measures, she said, would allow the agency to meet its twin goals – protecting consumers and ensuring competition.

While some have questioned the agency’s level of funding, at least in the area of health claims where the agency was thrown an unexpected large list of more than 4000+ claims to process, she said EFSA was, “well supported by the budgeting authority”.

The agency has an annual budget of €73m.

She noted the resources allocated to its human nutrition activities had in fact tripled since the nutrition and health claims regulation kicked into life in early 2007.

“This was necessary to support the work of the NDA.”

She said EFSA would continue to nurture its relationships with member state food agencies and provide them advance notice of EFSA work before public announcements, “so they can play their part and explain how they are going to use the work of EFSA to protect consumers.”

“While there is no official role allocated to national bodies...EFSA has engaged in dialogue with national food agencies, especially in the development of guidelines.

“We have asked for support and help to get experts and 50 per cent of these come from the national agencies. Perhaps we didn’t involve them enough in the early of screening of claims.”

Nutrient profiling

In another presentation, the head of the European Commission’s health and nutrition department, Basil Mathioudakis, said it was unclear whether a World Health Organization (WHO) report due, on nutrient profiling would influence EU deliberations on the controversial subject.

The WHO report has been delayed and with pressure mounting to produce guidelines in the EU, Mathioudakis noted, “we have an obligation to proceed.”

“We had a congress with the WHO about this when they had a two year period to carry out the work, but from there on we have not discussed whether or not to wait for the WHO.”

Mathioudakis said nutrient profiling proposals had stalled over deliberations on nanotechnology and cloning.

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