Responding to concern voiced by Members of European Parliament (MEPs), a spokesperson told NutraIngredients.com: “EFSA has been carrying out work in the area of health claims based on the key objectives of the EU Regulation on Health and Nutrition claims – agreed by MEPs and the European Council – that is, to ensure that any claim made on a food label in the EU is clear and substantiated by scientific evidence to avoid false or misleading information.”
Robust scientific evaluation of health claims was essential, according to EFSA. “Sustainable innovation and consumer confidence can only be maintained if health claims made on foods represent a real benefit for consumers and are backed by robust science,” said the spokesperson.
“With its scientific work on health claims, EFSA plays its part in reaching the common objective of sustainable innovation in Europe. EFSA’s evaluations of claims are not stifling innovation but can support industry in establishing the future directions for innovation based on sound science.”
EFSA had agreed with the European Commission (EC) that it would finalise the evaluations of all general function health claims, other than botanicals, by the end of June 2011. The EC had decided to put botanical claims on hold.
The spokesperson said up to April 2011: “EFSA had published 263 opinions providing scientific advice on more than 2,150 “general function” health claims, completing the evaluation of about 80% of ‘general function’ health claims, excluding the so-called "botanical" claims. Of the claims evaluated so far, nearly 20% were positively assessed.”
Speaking before EFSA’s response, Michele Rivasi, MEP Greens/European Political Alliance (EPA), said: “How is it that over 95% of cases of health claims filed for natural or herbal substances received a negative opinion?”
“EFSA’s approach is too stringent and based on procedures derived from the drug industry. It takes into account very little scientific evidence and dismisses claims that have been approved in several European countries.
EFSA should review its assessment methodology given the impact on industry and consumers, he added.
Bogusław Sonik, MEP European People’s Party (EPP) said: “It is vital that the Commission takes into consideration the economic impact that this approach will have on small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs). SMEs are the backbone of our economy and it is important that their rights are not unnecessarily infringed.”