EC can balance EFSA’s mass antioxidant rejection: ERNA

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Antioxidant Nda

The European Food Safety Authority’s mass rejection of antioxidant foods and constituents including prunes, bananas, resveratrol, pomegranate and pine bark extract will provide an interesting test of the European Commission’s risk management role, the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA) has said.

“The Commission has indicated it wants to play the a full role as a risk manager and we applaud that,” ​said ERNA’s secretary general, Patrick Coppens. “They are open to additional information which shows they are not simply rubber stamping the EFSA opinions. We will see.”

EFSA’s opinion related to 169 dossiers and saw its Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) turn down submissions linking antioxidant health benefits to blackcurrant juice; royal jelly; acerola; guava; various grape juices and extracts; honey; olive and olive extracts; hibiscus; chorella algae; green tea; cranberry; lingonberry and sea buckthorn oil.

Other nutrients given the thumbs down included spirulina; triphala; chlorophyll; sulphoraphane glucosinolate; elderberry juice; glutathion; aged garlic; rooibos; ginseng; ginkgo biloba; cherries; echinacea ; bilberry ; curcumin and capsicum.

Not sufficient to predict the occurrence of an effect

In its opinion the NDA stated that: “…no evidence has been provided to establish that having antioxidant activity/content and/or antioxidant properties is a beneficial physiological effect.”

It said it assumed those properties were to, “scavenge free radicals and/or to their reducing capacity.”

On the matter of protecting DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage which were also claimed in the submissions, the NDA noted the absence of human studies using reliable risk factors or biomarkers.

“The evidence provided in the animal and in vitro studies submitted is not sufficient to predict the occurrence of an effect of the food(s)/food constituent(s) on the protection of body cells and molecules such as DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage in vivo in humans,”​ the NDA said.

Double standards?

Coppens said he was not surprised by the negative opinions because the evidence that exists for most of the foods and herbal products was never going to meet EFSA’s human intervention trial requirements.

“Much of the science in place in this area relates to the functioning of the ingredient rather than its role in the body and it is no secret how difficult it is to demonstrate antioxidant activities when you consider the way these foods and extracts are consumed as part of food matrixes.”

He highlighted the fact vitamins and minerals demonstrating various health benefits won positive opinions based on similar kinds of observational evidence, and said the NDA’s opinions had not clarified an apparent double standard.

Coppens added this lack of clarity made it difficult to predict if EFSA’s high rejection rate would continue as there were more than 3000 article 13.1 submissions still to be processed – probably by the end of 2011.

The NDA opinion can be found here​.

The science, testing and regulation surrounding antioxidants will be discussed at the upcoming NutraIngredients Antioxidants 2010 Conference​. For more information and to register, please click here​ .

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