New EFSA health claims chief: Probiotics can win claims within “one or two years”

By Shane Starling in Frankfurt

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Efsa health claims Probiotic health claims European union

Professor Ambroise Martin
Professor Ambroise Martin
Emerging genomic data and better understanding of European Food Safety Authority requirements will win probiotic health claims within “a year”, the EU science agency’s new health claims panel chief told us after a Frankfurt congress this morning.

EFSA's health claims panel chair, professor Ambroise Martin, said a positive claim may be just around the corner.

“There is no problem to accept intermediate people [those that are stressed in some way but not technically sick] or diseased] and with the developments in genomic science it is my feeling that we will soon positively assess a specific claim with a specific strain in a specific context, taking into an account a specific context and all the opinions that have gone before.”

“With this in mind someone could come with a basic dossier about transit time for instance. I have no doubt about this in the short to medium term. It could happen inside one or two years.”

Speaking at a health claims seminar at Health Ingredients Europe, professor Martin spelled out EFSA’s well-known stance on the importance of correctly characterised nutrients; on the preference for human intervention studies over in vitro​ and animal data; on the need for studies to be performed on healthy populations.

He said the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) he took over in July this year, and that includes nine new members from the previous incarnation under professor Albert Flynn, was more readily available for interaction via an applications help desk and he urged claim submitters to make use of it.

But ultimately “It is the responsibility of the applicant to argue precisely,”​ he said, noting a recent Glanbia peptide rejection had afforded Glanbia the opportunity to withdraw the dossier after a stop-the-clock procedure had raised questions about the peptide extraction and hydrolysation process.

Also speaking at the session was Robert Verkerk, PhD, the chief executive and scientific director at the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), which has campaigned long and hard against the NHCR and its implementation.


Dr Verkerk looked ahead to the December 14 deadline when 222 claims authorised claims and about 1500 non-authorised claims become legally binding across the European Union.

“Fundamental science holds little value when held next to EFSA’s research methodologies,”​ he said. “There is a huge question about how the regulation will be implemented between member states – will it be fair and proportionate for small and medium enterpreises?”

Seminar chair, Joerg Gruenwald, the CEO of the German consultancy, analyse&realize added: “The bigger companies have already made changes – the smaller ones are waiting to see how it will be implemented.”

“The industry will shake its way through the regulation.”

Dr Verkerk said he looked forward to a European Commission report that would investigate the impact of the NHCR on EU obesity rates. It is due in 2013 but is likely to be delivered much later.

 “There is little to see how it has done that. That kind of big picture thinking is not there,” ​Dr Verkerk said.

Lawyer, Christian Meier, from GornyLaw observed: “There is no interpretation of health in the health claims regulation.”

See NutraIngredients in coming days for more of our exclusive interview with Dr Martin.

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1 comment

Communicate well and be patient

Posted by Martin Macouzet,

It is good news that EFSA is doing the necessary adaptations in order to ensure an appropriate application and evaluation process for probiotic health claims. At the Institute for the Development of Probiotic Food products we consider that while there is an effort to solve emerging issues then things are going the good way. We are convinced that all this process, even if lengthy and costly, will ultimately benefit serious companies and consumers. In the mean time, there are other legitimate options for communicating the health benefits of probiotics to consumers. An outstanding example is the “Consumer Reliance Program” ( ), which even has certain advantages over health claims for the quality of information that can be transmitted to consumers.

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