EU rejects more than 90% of all health claims: Study

By Eliot Beer

- Last updated on GMT

EU continues to reject a high number of health claim submissions. ©iStock /artJazz
EU continues to reject a high number of health claim submissions. ©iStock /artJazz

Related tags Health claims Nutrition

The EU has authorised only a small fraction of the health claims submitted to it, with a number of categories seeing no authorised claims at all, according to a new analysis of the bloc’s uber-strict health claim process.

Between 2008 and mid-2015, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) processed 3,108 health claims in total, according to a study by Dutch academics and former EFSA Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) panellist professor Hans Verhagen, and current vice-chair professor Henk van Loveren.

During the same period the European Commission only authorised 261 claims for use, just over 8% of the total. While the vast majority of these were not authorised, the EC is also yet to rule on 821 claim submissions and about 1500 botanical claims are on-hold.

Commission’s claims backlog

The vast majority of the backlog is made up of claims under Article 13.1 of the nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR), which covers health claims made on the basis of generally accepted scientific data.

Article 13.5 claims – covering functions based on new scientific data and proprietary data – saw only seven authorised, with 99 not authorised, and 39 yet to be processed by either EFSA or the EC.

Article 14 claims relating to disease risk reduction had a better success rate, with 14 authorised, 20 not authorised, and only eight claims awaiting processing. Under the same article children’s health claims saw 11 authorised, 39 not authorised, and 55 yet to be processed.

A recent EFSA health opinion (negative)

Mixed success across categories

Probiotics and prebiotics not unexpectedly​ saw the worst strike rate, with zero claims approved.

Fibre saw seven authorised and 46 non-authorised claims, while beta-glucans saw five authorised and 12 not. Pectins had a 33% success rate, with two of six total claims authorised, while hydroxypropyl methylcellulose was the only listed category in the paper to show a perfect record, with two claims authorised. 

As concerns antioxidants/oxidative damage […] EFSA has evaluated almost 200 health claims: for only eight health claims a cause and effect relationship was found established and authorised (vitamins C, E and B2; minerals copper, manganese, zinc and selenium; olive oil polyphenols standardised by hydroxytyrosol and its derivatives)​,” wrote the study’s authors.

Source: Trends in Food Science and Technology

Published online ahead of print, doi: 10.1016/j.tifs.2016.07.005

Status of nutrition and health claims in Europe by mid 2015​”

Authors: Verhagen, H; van Loveren, H

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