France goes off-piste with caffeine, carnitine, creatine, lycopene law? EFSA safe caffeine limit halved

By Annie Harrison-Dunn contact

- Last updated on GMT

The Commission and member states should reject France's attempts to set its own maximum limits for caffeine, carnitine, creatine and lycopene, says food law consultant
The Commission and member states should reject France's attempts to set its own maximum limits for caffeine, carnitine, creatine and lycopene, says food law consultant

Related tags: Member states, European union, Caffeine

France has proposed new legal daily limits for carnitine, creatine, lycopene and caffeine in supplements – the latter of which was half that defined as safe by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The order​set the following restrictions on food supplements:

- Caffeine: ​The quantity present in the recommended daily serving must not exceed 200 mg.

- Carnitine: ​The quantity present in the recommended daily serving must not exceed 2,000 mg. The chemical forms of carnitine must comprise a minimum of 99% of the L-enantiomer.

- Creatine: ​The quantity present in the recommended daily serving must not exceed 3,000 mg.

- Lycopene: ​The quantity present in the recommended daily serving must not exceed 15 mg.

For Hylobates Consulting food law expert Dr Luca Bucchini the French proposal was a step away from much needed EU harmonisation and should be opposed by other member states as a barrier to trade. He said the French proposal hailed from a “distant past” ​when there was no single market, no EFSA, no global competition, no e-commerce”​.

The document was published through the European Commission’s notification procedure, designed to anticipate and prevent barriers to trade in the EU. As part of this technical step, the Commission and member states can comment and even object to the draft.

Bucchini said France had failed to make provisions for mutual recognition since countries like Italy and the UK, formally or informally, allowed higher levels for creatine. He said it also had ignored the established process for setting maximum limits i.e. the supplements directive.

“In the interest of consumers and of the single market, the EC and member states should ask France to go through the 1925 procedure, and respect mutual recognition, rather than go through with this decree.”

Conflicting efforts?

EFSA passed its controversial opinion on caffeine back in April, stating 200 mg in one sitting and up to 400 mg per day was safe for adults.

At the time, the European Consumer Organisation (BEUC) criticised the opinion for veering too far from more conservative national risk assessments from the French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) and the German Federal Institute for Risk Assessment (BfR).

EU member states harmonisation

Under the supplements directive, pan-EU maximum limits should be based on EFSA assessments. The Commission was now considering the EFSA opinion and claims relating to caffeine would be discussed this autumn. Currently there are no pan-EU maximum upper safe limits for caffeine and member states vary widely on this​. France was one of the countries that did not have an upper limit established.  

Director of strategy for the European Specialist Sports Nutrition Alliance (ESSNA) Chris Whitehouse echoed some of Bucchini’s concerns. He said pushing safety legalisation ahead of the Commission’s discussions was “premature”​.

Furthermore, the Commission has been careful to ensure that it has first sought a scientific opinion on caffeine issues from EFSA, which is exactly the right thing to do. ESSNA strongly believes in the importance of such science when it comes to policy-making - and laws not based on science, which is what appears to have happened in France, are not helpful for consumers, the industry or for trade across the EU.”

Bucchini said differing national levels provided “ammunition”​ for food regulation nay-sayers who claimed it was too complex and ultimately ineffective. “Regulators are confused, honest players in the market suffer, and unsafe products become available to European consumers. For the broader industry and consumers, it becomes a lose-lose situation.”

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2 comments

What is the Minimum Limit defined to be effective for each except Caffeine?

Posted by PRAKASH from INDIA,

The upper limit is Safety. One needs a minimum level to see the effect and a product must ensure that minimum for protecting the Interest of the consumer when a product claims it has say fro example carnitine or Lycopene.It will also help the Analyst to clear the Label for claims with the analytical values.

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Food Scientist, author,

Posted by GreenEyedGuide,

Interesting decision and I would love to hear how they came up with this number for caffeine specifically. According to Caffeine Informer, caffeine consumption in France is ~215mg/day (article: The Most Caffeine Addicted Country). Are they hoping to curb that level or do they just enjoy citizen rebellion?

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