Responding to calls by Danone for dissenting opinions among NDA panelists to be made public, Dr Kleiner affirmed that while minority opinions existed in some EFSA panel opinions (and were published), this wasn’t the case with the NDA health claims panel.
“If there are minority opinions they are expressed in the opinion otherwise opinions are adopted by consensus. There haven’t been any minority opinions.”
Responding to another of Danone’s queries about non-communication of its dossier reservations during stop-the-clock sessions, Dr Kleiner said the panel had been clear about, “what was needed for clarification”.
Dr Kleiner told the conference the NDA was devoting more resources to honour its commitment to greater dialogue with applicants, and said the panel, “would like to have pre-submission meetings” although the resources are not as yet there for that.
She affirmed that further subject-specific guidance similar to that which had been produced in the gut health and immunity area would be forthcoming in 2011 and 2012, with further stakeholder meetings a possibility but not confirmed.
The agency had scrutinised comments and would produce the final draft of the gut and immunity guidance in April this year, she said.
NHCR spread beyond EU
Speaking at the same health claims panel session, Basil Mathioudakis, the European Commission’s head of Food Law, Nutrition and Labelling, noted that a recent visit to the Middle East demonstrated the European Union nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) is being used as a template in a region that is in the midst of developing its own claims legislation.
“What we do in the EU is very much appreciated,” he said. “I have seen draft regulations in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates that are virtually a copy of EU regulations.”
“Decisions of EFSA are used as scientific basis for acceptance of claims in the Middle East.”
The panel discussion included industry and consumer group advocates with Monique Goyens, the director general of the consumer group BEUC expressing frustration that the NHCR was taking too long for the claim rules to reach product shelves and influence consumer choice.
Unilever’s external affairs director Anne Heughan commended the work EFSA has done and urged greater dialogue with stakeholders, especially in the area of emerging science.
She wondered how member state representatives may deal with “out of scope claims”, those such as a recent water-dehydration claims the panel said was outside the scope of the regulation.