EC: Adequate nutrient intake no grounds for health claim rejection

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union

The fact that a particular nutrient deficiency is not demonstrated in a general population should not justify the rejection of a health claim, the European Commission has said at a recent standing committee meeting.

Chaired by Basil Mathioudakis, the European Commission’s head of Food Law, Nutrition and Labelling (DG Sanco), EC and EU member state attendees queried European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinions that highlighted adequate nutrient intakes as potential grounds for claim invalidation.

Denying claims on these grounds could be problematic where nutrient-benefit relations had been established and agreed upon by EFSA, especially among population sub-groups that may not have the same level of nutrient adequacy.

“The Commission observed that the absence of evidence of inadequate intake of a nutrient for the general population does not mean that all subgroups of the EU population have adequate intakes of those nutrients,”​ minutes from the July 12 meeting reveal.

Attendees stressed that the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation does not in any of its 29 articles specify that adequate or inadequate intakes can provide a basis for the rejection of health claims.

Nor does it, “reflect such consideration in the authorisation of the claims in terms of imposing additional labelling requirements.”

All attendees agreed this was the case.

Calcium was cited as an example of a nutrient that had won positive opinions from EFSA and for which adequate or inadequate intakes had not come into the equation.

“EFSA commented that the beneficial effect on health was not related to the dietary intake of that nutrient [calcium],”​ state the minutes.

“Some member states expressed their preference for not authorising such claims on the grounds that they would be misleading to the consumer while one member state suggested that such claims should be authorised given that the claimed effects are scientifically substantiated.”

Other matters

Also at the meeting two member states registered reservations about the staggered adoption of EFSA opinions by the EC as they believe the effect is economically unfair on all players in the sector and difficult to police by local enforcement authorities.

Other attendees raised questions about the legality of products bearing claims that remain on-market but which have not been submitted to the regulation for assessment.

The EC said such claims are in breach of the law and should not be utilised, but acknowledged the regulation may need redrafting to clarify the point.

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