EFSA rejects hundreds more health claims

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) NDA panel has published the outcome of the evaluations of a fourth series of “general function” health claims proposed for use on food products. The panel rejected most of the 442 proposed health claims.

The 442 claims assessed relate to health relationships in such areas as protection against oxidative damage to body cells, contribution to either cognitive or bowel function, and maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels. These opinions will help inform future decisions of the European Commission and EU Member States, which are responsible for the authorization of the claims. EFSA will finalise the evaluation of the remaining 600 general function health claims which need to be assessed by June 2011.

The good news is that some of the health claims were accepted. Claims evaluated with a favourable outcome include:

  • The relationship between walnuts and improved function of blood vessels.
  • The antioxidant effects of polyphenols found in olive oil on LDL cholesterol.
  • The relationship between caffeine and alertness and caffeine and increased physical endurance.
  • The expert panels also concluded that a number of claims based on the replacement of certain nutrients were supported by sufficient scientific evidence, including the replacement of digestible starch by resistant starch to lower the increase of blood glucose levels after meals, the replacement of saturated fatty acids with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels, as well as the role of a range of sugar replacers (eg, xylitol or sorbitol) in maintaining tooth mineralisation or lowering the increase of blood glucose levels after meals.

Like previous evaluations, many of the unfavourable opinions in this series were linked to the poor quality of the information provided to EFSA. Information gaps included, for instance, the inability to identify the specific substance on which the claim is based, the lack of evidence that the claimed effect is indeed beneficial to the maintenance or improvement of body functions, or the lack of precision regarding the health claim being made. In addition, some claims were outside the scope of the current legal framework.

EFSA and its scientific experts are pursuing dialogue with stakeholders to further explain their work and to provide applicants with additional guidance on preparing applications. Following consultations carried out in 2010, EFSA will launch three additional online consultations later this month on guidance for health claims related to 1) bone, joint and oral health 2) oxidative damage and cardiovascular health, and 3) satiety, weight management and blood glucose concentrations.

Press release