Unilever’s black tea circulation claim rejected by EFSA

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT


Related tags Black tea Tea

Unilever’s claim that the flavonol content of black tea contributes to improved endothelium-dependent (ED) vasodilation has been declined by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

The ruling​ is a setback to the food giant’s plans for the beverage sector. Last year Unilever became the new owners of the UK-based organic herbal tea business Pukka.

Pukka joins high-end Australian tea company T2, purchased in 2013, along with PG Tips and Pure Leaf in the firm’s portfolio of beverage brands.

Unilever claimed that black tea, either freshly prepared or reconstituted from water extract powders of black tea, with a flavanol content of more than 30 milligrams per 200 millilitres (mg/mL) was enough to ‘maintain normal ED vasodilation’ in the adult general population.

EFSA countered with the argument that ‘a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of black tea and maintenance of normal ED vasodilation​.’

EFSA and tea don’t blend well

Tea has been at the centre of a number of health claims most notably those related to green tea (Camellia sinensis​) that focuses on the catechins in the green tea.

In this instance EFSA also rejected a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of catechins (including EGCG) in green tea and improvement of endothelium-dependent vasodilation.

Such is the similarity in nutrient profile for both in green and black teas, EFSA requested clarification on whether this latest claim referred to tea flavanols (including catechins, theaflavins and thearubigins), to a fixed combination of catechins and theaflavins.

This referred to tea or to tea beverages made from the green tea leaves that were characterised by their catechins and theaflavin content.

Unilever replied that the subject of the claim was black tea beverages, either freshly prepared or reconstituted from water extract powders of black tea, characterised by the content of flavanols (expressed as catechins plus theaflavins) of at least 30 mg per 200 mL serving.

Short and sweet process

The health claim application made in accordance with Article 13(5) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 was a relatively short process that began on May of last year.

The Working Group on Claims of the NDA Panel requested further information in September from Unilever, with a final decision made in December based on the accompanying scientific evidence.

Had Unilever been successful, the corporation would’ve joined Tetley in making available functional teas that were accompanied by a set of proven health benefits.

It’s range of ‘super green teas’ became the first in the UK to receive support by EFSA, who had backed the product and its benefits to the immune system to help reduce tiredness and fatigue.

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1 comment

Le trahison des clercs

Posted by Paul Clayton,

The bean-counters at EFSA have once again betrayed their true remit, which is to safeguard public health. I hold no brief for Unilever, but the relationship between polyphenols as a class, and the modulation of the tissue-damaging effects of chronic inflammatory stress (largely via MMP inhibition and down-regulation) are very well documented indeed. Endothelial dysfunction is just one example of this.

One really has to ask whose interests EFSA now serves; because while it continues to reject such outlandish claims as 'polyphenols in tea modify endothelial dysfunction', and 'water prevents dehydration', the ongoing disaster in public health continues apace. Many chronic degenerative diseases are occurring not only more frequently, but emerging in progressively younger age groups. IQ is falling, as is fertility (among indigenous 1st worlders), and life expectancy; and that last trend is NOT solely due to Sackler's opioids.

In short, although our shockingly poor diet is proven to be a major cause of morbidity and mortality (ie the GBD reports), EFSA continues to fiddle while the world burns.

Admittedly, they need help. The food industry must start to assemble evidence-based cases NOT for single agents (an out-dated and irrelevant neo-Pasteurian / pharma concept), but for rationally designed rafts of nutrients, presented in food formats, which cross-reference the multiple metabolic imbalances which drive degenerative disease. And EFSA MUST start taking its responsibilities seriously. They could start by engaging with the food industry in an entirely more constructive way, enabling a move towards genuinely functional (risk-reducing) foods.

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