University of Bonn researchers polled food and pharmaceutical industry players and trade groups from 15 EU nations and found claim wording and a lack of transparency at the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and the European Commission as prime concerns.
Two thirds had not increased their R&D spend since 2012 when a list of 222 approved and about 1600 rejected claims was published under the general function article 13.1 of the NHCR. At the time a ‘tsunami of cheap innovation’ was predicted.
The average R&D spend was 4% among those that had increased, Dr Sukhada Khedkar, and her team found, writing in the International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition.
"Our findings suggest that challenges related to the NHCR (Article 13.1) seem to discourage innovation activities of participant companies," they wrote.
Respondents were asked about the most difficult aspects of the NHCR to comply with and answered by either agreeing, strongly agreeing; disagreeing or strongly disagreeing; or neither agreeing or disagreeing.
‘Wording of claims’ (73.3%) raised the greatest concern followed by ‘lack of transparency’ (67.6%), ‘limited financial resources’ (61.9%).
Of less concern were being forced to ‘switch to another category’ (52.3%) or being forced to ‘abandon the functional foods sector’ (18.1%).
The researchers said the perceived pressure to abandon the sector would have been felt more by the food than pharma industry.
NPD had slowed with 85% reporting no increase in new product development and a severe reduction in ‘radical product innovations’ and new processes.
They said a larger sample size than 105 and a broader discussion of other articles of the NHCR such as claims backed by proprietary and emerging science (article 13.5) or article 14 claims focused on disease risk factor reduction or children’s health and development “might have had an influence on the innovation efforts in the food industry.”
International Journal of Food Sciences and Nutrition
‘Exploring the Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006: What is the impact on innovation in the EU food sector?’
Authors: Sukhada Khedkar, Stefanie Broring, and Stefano Ciliberti