DSM CEO: “food ingredients are not pharmaceuticals”

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Nutrition

The president and chief executive officer of DSM Nutritional Products, Leendert Staal, says his company is facing up to life under EU’s new health claims rules, but has not changed its approach to nutrition science and product innovation.

In an exclusive interview with NutraIngredients.com Leendert Staal said his company continued to work for change in the regulatory set-up which he said had the potential to thwart innovation across the European Union and beyond.

He echoed common industry criticism of the regulation that it is overly reliant on pharmaceutical models when assessing nutrition science.

Innovation killer?

“Food ingredients are not pharmaceutical ingredients that is clear,” ​Staal said. “But you have to look at the intensity of the rules. Collectively what we have to be mindful of is that we do not kill the innovation process. There is a risk there and then you will see the impact. There is concern that it will happen.”

“Regulations are there to make sure that products are safe; that claims that are made can be substantiated. Nothing wrong with that. But if the walls get too high you cannot enter that field.”

Staal said DSM had not shifted budgets away from its research labs in an exasperated response to the developing climate.

“Changing regulations are always on our agenda because they are changing the dynamics of the market. We are a company that does not put products on the market that we don’t have the evidence for. So from a clinical perspective and a product safety perspective, nothing has changed.”

That said, the company is active in the claims debate with its representatives appearing frequently at trade shows and conferences to give its perspective on the issue that has dominated the European functional foods and food supplements industry since, and even before, it was introduced in 2007.

“Is there more work to be done with the regulators? Yes. It’s early days. We have to see how the pattern will emerge. We have to find a balance. But regionally it doesn’t change things for us. The same principles apply.”

“We want to be thought leaders in this industry from quality to sustainability. Every step we take is to be a more a sustainable company. You can say you start intellectually but it is in our values.”

DSM’s nutrition cluster that includes DSM Food Specialties earned €2.088bn in Q1 2010 – up 24per cent on Q1 2009. Profit increased 345 per cent from €44m to €196m.

The interview was conducted at DSM’s 2020: Nourish, Protect and Improve event in Switzerland where global staff, clients and journalists were invited.

Speakers included ‘karaoke capitalist’ Kjell A Nordstrom, associate professor at the Institute of International Business at the Stockholm School of Economics who outlined what he means by Capitalism 2.0; Nouriel Roubini, professor of economics at New York University Stern School of Business,​who focused on the economic crisis; Alexandra Cousteau, from Blue Legacy, who explored water resourcing; and Peter Schwartz, from the Global Business Network, who explored trends that may affect the future of the planet.

Related topics: Suppliers, Health claims

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