Speaking with us at the Fi Europe conference and exhibition in Frankfurt, Verhagen said that the principles of the antioxidant theory remain plausable, and there is a chance that other antioxidant claims will be given the EFSA green light in the future.
"I was very eager to embark on the antioxidant evidence and hypothesis in the past, but I am becoming more and more reluctant," said Verhagen, who is senior scientific advisor for nutrition and food safety at the National Institute for Public Health and Environment in the Netherlands and also sits on EFSA's NDA Panel that assesses health claims dossiers.
"I think it's not over yet, but it's extremely difficult to prove firm scientific evidence for antioxidant effects in humans," said the expert. "And that's where the problem is."
The EFSA panel member threw down the gauntlet to industry and researchers to come up with the evidence needed to back up some of the claims that have been made for antioxidants in the past, but also noted that an 'absence of evidence does not mean evidence of absence' - adding that while there may be a lack of evidence to allow an authorised health claim, that does not equate evidence showing antioxidants do not have an effect.
"It is a chellenge to scientists and to industry to come up with the evidence," he said. "If you can't come up with the evidence, maybe the evidence is not there. And then it all stops."