EFSA health claims summit

Industry hoping for answers at EFSA health claims summit

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Efsa executive director Efsa health claims Nutrition Efsa

About 250 highly concerned industry representatives have gathered at EFSA’s Parma headquarters today for a day-long health claims summit, with early reports this morning indicating there was little being said by EFSA that would encourage industry’s efforts to gain health claims approvals.

EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle highlighted article 13.5 as a route that may see scope for better quality science and therefore greater chances of positive opinions, but delegates reported few genuine insights from the morning’s events.

“It is exactly the same as a year ago,” ​said one delegate, in reference to the previous EFSA health claims stakeholders meeting held in Brussels 12 months ago. “I didn’t expect to learn anything and I have not learned anything.”

Robert Verkerk from the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) said there had been little new from EFSA or the European Commission’s Basil Mathioudakis, the Head of Unit, Food Law, Nutrition and Labelling at DG Health and Consumers (DG Sanco).

“Generally there is very little new information coming through from EFSA or the EC,”​ he said.

But an EFSA spokesperson contacted NutraIngredients to say the event was not a "cut and paste"​ of the Brussels summit.

Speakers included EFSA executive director Catherine Geslain-Lanéelle; NDA chair Albert Flynn and NDA head Juliane Kleiner.

Article 13.5 hope

Geslain-Lanelle said EFSA expects 100s of rejected article 13.1 generic claims to be refigured to higher standards and resubmitted under the proprietary and emerging science article 13.5 route.

Mella Frewen, the director general of the Confederation of the Food and Drink Industries of the EU (CIAA) called for greater claim requirement clarity.

"The whole system is learning by doing,”​ Frewen said. “It was unlikely to be perfect from the start as the system was new for everyone, namely the Commission, EFSA, member states and stakeholders."

Today’s afternoon session includes a 75-minute “exchange of views”​ that will provide a rare opportunity for industry to confront EFSA with some of its concerns about the way the EU 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation is being interpreted by EFSA and its Panel on Dietetic Products Nutrition and Allergies (NDA).

EFSA said topics for discussion would include:

• Totality of the available scientific evidence

• Characterisation of food/constituent

• Extrapolation issues

• Target population

• Procedural aspects

Look to NutraIngredients for more on the Parma meeting tomorrow.


Last week, the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) issued a statement casting a positive light on Europe’s new health claim environment.

“This is a real opportunity for food businesses to use these approved claims to their competitive advantage,”​ said Dr Mary Flynn, the chief specialist in Public Health Nutrition at FSAI.

“The labelling rules for the correct use of these claims can be complicated for food businesses, but are essential to ensure that consumers are not misled about expected benefits.”

Her comments may be taken with a pinch of salt by an industry that demonstrated the stifling effect the regulation is having on innovation at the recent Vitafoods trade show, where new ingredient launches were almost completely non-existent.

But they were backed by market researcher, Euromonitor. In a recent statement on the subject it said: EFSA has been reviewing the health claims of vitamins and dietary supplements, and while the scientific claims of single vitamins has been approved, those of probiotics and glucosamine have been rejected.”

“Do these rejections signal doom for the use of dietary supplements as ingredients in food or beverage products? Euromonitor International thinks not. Increased regulatory scrutiny is now normal for food, beverage and pharmaceutical companies. Those who can provide evidence from well-designed medical studies will be able to use vitamins and dietary supplements as ingredients in their products and reap the rewards from a consumer who is hungry for natural, medically effective products.”

The FSAI noted about 40 health claims had been approved by EFSA as it issued guidance to small businesses on how to apply claims. That guidance can be found here​.

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