‘There is a terrible lack of data’: EFSA on DRV difficulties

By Shane Starling at the 12th FENS Congress in Berlin

- Last updated on GMT

‘There is a terrible lack of data’: EFSA on DRV difficulties
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has called on researchers to deliver better data as it continues its gargantuan task of setting nutrient intake reference for 500m European Union citizens.

“We need research which is designed to generate data,”​ said Susan Fairweather-Tait, EFSA scientist and member of its Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA).

“There is a terrible lack of data. It is really poor,”​ she relayed to the giant 12th​ Federation of European Nutrition Societies (FENS) congress held every four years in Berlin today.

Speaking with EFSA colleagues in a session that spelled out the Parma-based agency's approaches and challenges in setting dietary recommended values (DRVs) and other intake measures across the bloc for minerals, vitamins and potentially other substances.

The task is complicated by the acknowledged lack of quality intake, bioavailability and efficacy data meaning that methods like extrapolation between, say, infants and adults, or men and women, must at times be employed in the setting of DRVs and other intake measures.

She said the use of another measure, adequate intake (AI), was “a way of dealing with the fact that we don’t have enough data.”​ 

Another EFSA scientist, professor Hildegard Przyrembel, noted EFSA opinions were not in themselves law. “EC and Parliament are always free to follow EFSA or not.”

“DRVs are the best feasible reference values at a given moment,”​ Przyrembel said. “They are highly dependent on available data and you will hear how much we wish for better data. DRVs may change when new or better data becomes available. Our work is not done for eternity, we are very aware of that.

This makes it so much more interesting because whhenever new data becomes available we would be obliged if necessary to revise our reference values. Such is life.”

DRVs represent nutrient intakes required for good health depending on age and gender.

EFSA has just published DRV opinions​ on copper and iron.

Explanation of different measures can be found here​ ​.

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