After having two of three health claims submitted for European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) assessment rejected, the Irish dairy industry says it is unsure of its next move in the uncharted new EU system.
With a growing consumer focus on health and nutrition benefits, the global dairy industry has been working to play up the potential well-being benefits of dairy products. The Irish National Dairy Council (NDC) had hoped to obtain European Commission support for a number of proposed health claims to be attached to its products as part of this nutrition focus.
However, EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) said the claims that linked dairy consumption with ideal body weight and reduced incidence of dental carries in children were insufficiently supported.
The risk assessor said that the causality between dairy products was not proven, while the kind of dairy products in question were also not sufficiently defined.
A spokesperson for the NDC told DairyReporter.com that having received these opinions from EFSA it was looking at options, which could include submitting an appeal on the opinions.
The NDC claimed that the rejections were not related to issues EFSA had with dairy foods per se, but reflected instead current industry uncertainty in navigating the new health claims system.
“This is a new process and the food sector is learning how best to make submissions,” stated the spokesperson.
‘Ominous first stone’
Of eight assessed claims unveiled last week, EFSA’s NDA rejected seven.
Following the announcement, Patrick Coppens, the secretary-general of the Brussels-based industry group, the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA), said the claim rejections cast an ominous first stone in a process that will see around 2800 claims assessed by January 31, 2010.
“This will come as a shock to industry and a blow to companies that have had their applications rejected. The potential economic damage is vast,” he told sister publication NutraIngredients.com. “These opinions make it clear it is not going to be easy for companies to have claims approved.”
Only Unilever’s plant sterol submission outlining cholesterol lowering potential and reduction in the risk of coronary heart disease was approved, accompanied by tightly defined claim wording.
Seven of the claims fell under article 14 of the health and nutrition claims regulation, which governs disease reduction and children’s claims. Five of these related to children’s health.