EC hands omega-3 mixed results

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Omega-3 form dha, Docosahexaenoic acid

The eyes have it, but the brain
The eyes have it, but the brain
An article 14 children’s development health claim submitted to the European Union by drug giant Merck linking omega-3 form DHA with infant visual development has been approved at committee level by the European Commission.

After lengthy discussions with Member States” ​and recent EFSA data on conditions of use that generated consideration of extending the 12-month specification of the claim to all children, the Standing Committee for the Food Chain and Animal Health (SCoFCAH) passed the claim as submitted by Merck.

But a similar article 14 claim linking DHA and cognitive development that EFSA’s Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) rejected was confirmed.

Confirmation of a claim linking ALA and children’s brain development was postponed as member states continue to debate how conditions of use will affect it.

The NDA has recommended that any brain health benefits for ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) should also be attributed to DHA (docosahexaenoic acid), and this recommendation has also spurred additional debate at the SCoFCAH and among member states.

In regard to the ALA-DHA claim extension, Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3 (GOED) executive director, Adam Ismail said: “EFSA has specifically given the Commission a letter and presentation stating that in their opinion the ALA effect is only due to conversion to DHA and therefore any ALA claim should also apply to DHA,”​ said

“Health claims are supposed to reflect the best scientific advice available, and while the Member States are under no obligation to follow EFSA’s advice, it would be the first time they have ignored EFSA under the health claims regulations.”

“Depending on the outcome of the ALA claim debate, we believe there may be further opportunity to expand the target population at a later date.”

However GOED said senior EC officials had stated DHA claims may require resubmission, if the ALA brain claims are to be extended.

Breast versus bottle

Breast-feeding lobby concerns were addressed about how the addition of these omega-3 forms may make infant formula more attractive to mothers. It, “thus could interfere with the promotion of breast feeding and questioned their authorisation.”

SCoFCAH debate highlighted the fact that such concerns were covered by the infant formula and follow-on formula Directive.

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