Italian academics: Ignoring ‘tradition-of-use’ data bashes botanicals

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Give tradition-of-use herb science a chance, say Italian researchers
Give tradition-of-use herb science a chance, say Italian researchers

Related tags European union

Italian researchers say finding a way to validate and utilise ‘tradition-of-use’ data within European law maybe the only way to save 1000s of herbal supplement products whose existence is threatened by new European Union laws.

They say the nutrition and health claim regulation (NHCR) needs to be revised so that herbal products don’t get treated like vitamins and minerals which is “totally inappropriate”.

“What we need to do is look at what ‘tradition-of-use data can give us in terms of this regulation,”​ Professor Mauro Serafini, from the Università degli Studi di Roma told NutraIngredients this morning.

“We know that the data for plants is not as clear as for medicines but that does not mean that this kind of data should be dismissed completely. Tradition-of-use botanical information must be considered. To ignore it completely and just employ the kind of system that favours vitamins and minerals would be totally inappropriate.”

Professor Serafini will present his ideas at a seminar on the subject at NUCE International which is taking place in Milan, Italy, this week.

Also in the seminar hosted by the Italian supplements trade group, Federsalus, will be Professor Maria Laura Colombo from the Università degli Studi di Torino and Giovanni Scapagnini from the Università degli Studi del Molise.

Last year the European Commission pulled about 1500 herbal submissions from the NHCR process to reconsider how to assess them in light of some of the concerns raised by Professor Serafini and others. A decision on what to do with them is expected by the end of 2012.

“...safeguarded and considered scientifically valid.”

Professor Colombo observed: About three-quarters of the biologically active compounds presently in use worldwide have been discovered through follow-up research to verify the authenticity of the data based on folk and ethnobotanical use. Over hundreds of years, man acquired a great knowledge on the use of plants, knowledge which must be safeguarded and considered scientifically valid.”

Professoer Scapagnini added of herbal-derived antioxidants: “There is a great concern about the possibility that, following the proposed guidelines, food companies will engage in extremely expensive and complicate clinical studies with very poor possibilities to obtain significant results, especially if such researches are conducted in healthy population.”

For more about NUCE on October 5-7 click here.

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