Prune rejection provokes piqued UK MEP into prune eating rumpus

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Nutrition

Sir Graham Watson eating an apple
Sir Graham Watson eating an apple
UK Liberal Democrat MEP, Sir Graham Watson, has challenged European Commissioner for Health and Consumer Policy, John Dalli, to a prune eating contest in an adhoc, non-double blind, non-placebo controlled trial to demonstrate the digestive health benefits of the fruit.

Incensed at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) health claim panel rejection of a general function, article 13 claim linking prunes and “normal bowel function”​, Watson presented Commisioner Dalli with the fruit fight in the European Parliament in Strasbourg, France, recently.

constituents do not require a scientific test”

“The European Commission’s advisory panel which does this work has rejected 95 per cent of claims for plant-based foods, maybe in many cases with good reason, but among the claims rejected is the claim that prunes have a laxative effect,”​ Watson opined.

“I have asked the Commission if it is satisfied with the criteria and the methodology used for testing such claims because I know that prunes contain two substances sorbitol and dihydrophenylisatin, which have laxative effects. But most of our constituents do not require a scientific test.”

“I have also invited the Commissioner responsible for health and consumer policy, John Dalli, to a prune eating contest to see for himself.”

A spokesperson for Watson’s office in his English constituency of Somerset said Commissioner Dalli was yet to accept the prune-frontation. Commissioner Dalli’s office did not pass comment on the issue.

Watson’s Parliamentary statement can be seen here.

Article list 13 in the European Parliament

The rejection is one of about 2000 article 13 claim rejections – along with 222 approvals relating to 70 nutrients – that MEPs are set to vote on in coming months, and lobbying efforts are intensifying to bring more of them into the nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) debate.

Watson’s spokesperson said there were, “quite a few items on the rejected list that were concerning Sir Graham and other Liberal Democrat MEPs.”

“The Liberal Democrats are seeking to see some claims amended so that common sense prevails.”

But partisan voting decisions are yet to be taken by the Liberal Democrats or other parties represented in Strasbourg, offering hope to both pro and anti-NHCR lobbyists.

the implications are so far-reaching”

Independents like the Irish MEP, Marian Harkin, are also making their voices heard. She said recently: “We all have a problem with cowboys in the food industry who make outlandish claims that are not supported by science – and this is why I, and the majority of other MEPs, supported the regulation when we voted for it in 2006.”

“But I’m now very concerned about just how few claims have gone through. For many consumers trying to ensure their families eat as healthily as possible, it would be very confusing if these were the only ones allowed.”

“They’ll see the same few claims repeated over and over again on some foods, but so many others will be claim-free.”

Harkin concluded: “It’s difficult to accept that among the thousands of known beneficial food ingredients, nutritional science supports the use of only 70. The Parliament will have to think very carefully about how it acts when it comes to voting on this general function health claims list because the implications are so far-reaching.”

Prune fail

EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) discounted the prune (Prunus domestica L.)​ data presented in three intervention trials, including one study that showed, “some effect on faecal bulk but not on stool frequency or consistency.”

EFSA’s article 13 opinion on prunes can be found here.

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