Any objections? Sweden notifies EU on vitamin D fortification plans

By Annie Harrison-Dunn

- Last updated on GMT

Oil and butter will not be subject to mandatory fortification due to stakeholder concerns. © / tycoon751
Oil and butter will not be subject to mandatory fortification due to stakeholder concerns. © / tycoon751

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Sweden is preparing to send its proposals for mandatory vitamin D food fortification to the EU, with the regulation due to come into force in autumn 2016.

The EU notification gives member states the opportunity to comment and object on possible barriers to trade posed by the plans, which have already passed through two stages of consultation on a national level.

The proposals are for the expansion of the list of foods subject to mandatory vitamin D fortification in the sunlight-starved Scandinavian nation.

Originally the Swedish National Food Agency (NFA) wanted to expand mandatory fortification​ from milk products and margarine spreads already covered to include 3% fat milk, lactose-free alternatives, cooking oil, butter, yoghurt and soured milk to reflect real-life consumption habits and reach populations vulnerable to deficiency.

However, comments on the logistics and likely reach of fortifying Swedish oil and butter meant these two items were removed from the final list​. Meanwhile sweetened dairy products were added.

The rules will have a transitional period of two years once they come into force in autumn.

The proposals can be seen here​ in Swedish.

In February data from the four-year EU-funded ODIN​ ​project revealed 13% of the EU population of 500 million people are vitamin D deficient.

The paper provided the first internationally comparable “firm evidence” ​of the significant risk vitamin D deficiency poses to public health. 

“Vitamin D deficiency is evident throughout the European population at prevalence rates that are concerning and that require action from a public health perspective,”​ the multi-disciplinary team of 31 partners from 19 countries concluded.

“What direction these strategies take will depend on European policy but should aim to ensure vitamin D intakes that are protective against vitamin D deficiency in the majority of the European population.”

A lack of vitamin D can lead to bone deformities such as rickets in children and osteomalacia in adults.

EU levels

vitamin D bone health Zerbor
© iStock

Last month the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) proposed an adequate intake (AI) level of 15 micrograms (µg) per day from food sources for adults and children to achieve a blood serum level of 50 nanomoles per litre (nmol / L).

EFSA noted the difficulty in establishing vitamin D dietary reference values (DRVs) due to the complex interplay between how much of the ‘sunshine vitamin’ is generated in the body and how much is synthesised from sources like foods and food supplements.

The consultation​  ​is open for public comment until May 16. More on that here​ .

Vitamin D has won several claims under the strict EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) including its role in bone, muscle, teeth, immune system and cellular health.

Vitamin D is a fat-soluble vitamin family encompassing ergocalciferol (vitamin D2) and cholecalciferol (vitamin D3). Both forms are found in foods and supplements, while vitamin D3 is synthesised in the body when skin is exposed to UV light (like the sun), although this capacity reduces with ageing. 

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