EFSA already approved a claim for vitamin E and protection against oxidative damage for adults back in 2010.
However an article 14 claim filed by the trade group Specialised Nutrition Europe (SNE), formerly IDACE, back in 2008 sought to extend this claim to children under three.
In its opinion published on Friday (14 October), EFSA’s Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) panel concluded “the role of vitamin E in protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage applies to all ages, including infants and young children up to three years of age”.
To use the claim a product will have to contain at least 15% of the dietary reference value set by EFSA for this age group last year, but no more that the upper tolerable limit set by its predecessor the Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) back in 2003.
EFSA set Adequate Intakes (AIs) of 6 mg per day for children aged one to three and 5 mg per day for infants aged 7–11 months.
Meanwhile the tolerable upper intake level for vitamin E as alpha-tocopherol is 100 mg per day for children aged one to three years.
The claim and its conditions must now be formally adopted by the European Commission before it can be used on pack by the infant nutrition industry.
Yet SNE executive director Aurélie Perrichet told us EFSA’s positive opinion in itself would incentivise research investment.
“The ability to label health claims based on substantial scientific evidence encourages manufacturers to continually invest in the advancement of nutritional science, and offers benefits for consumers with ever more nutritious options following years of research and development.”
To date EFSA has received 268 applications for article 14 claims, which refer to the reduction of disease risk or to children's development or health.
Yet only 75 scientific opinions have so far been adopted.
Commitment to science and safety
Perrichet said this latest claim reflects the commitment of the specialised nutrition industry to develop nutritional science and ensure a high level of safety.
“Obtaining a positive opinion is the final confirmation of recognised and proven science, and in most cases can take decades or longer to generate these data.”
SNE's members are national trade associations for the specialist nutrition sector, which in turn brings the likes of Nestlé, Danone Nutricia, Abbott Nutrition and Mead Johnson under its banner.
According to SNE about 70% of infants will be fed infant formula at some point before the age of six months, and from six to 12 months around 90% of infants in the EU receive specialised complementary foods.