Further development of functional and added-value dairy products could be setback by current European proposals for legislating health and nutrition claims within the bloc, claims the European Dairy Association (EDA).
The EDA is calling for amendments to European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) opinions on nutrient profiles to focus specifically on goods derived from milk and not substitute products it calls ‘imitation’.
The group claims that failure to define natural dairy goods from substitute products within the legislation could set back further development in regards to nutrition.
Nutrient profiling is defined as the science of rating foods according to their nutritional composition.
Much attention has been given to the term in the last couple of years, partly since new European nutrition and health regulations require that only foods with favourable nutrient profiles should be allowed to make claims.
Joop Kleibeuker, the EDA secretary general, said that although the association welcomed EFSA’s proposals on allowing separate nutrient profile designations for natural dairy-based products, it strongly opposes allowing substitute ingredients under the guidelines.
“For the EDA, only milk and milk products - including yoghurts, butters, creams, dairy desserts, and cheeses - can be part of this specific category,” stated the group.
In light of this opinion, the association said that it would continue to lobby politicians and organisations within the Commission to review its proposals.
Kleibeuker claimed that the EDA opposition was in line with EFSA recommendations that milk and milk products can play a major role in diets by providing essential nutrients like calcium and protein.
“In our view, imitation products do not match these criteria; we see therefore no reason not to stick to the existing legal definition of milk and milk products, as stipulated in Annex XII of Regulation (EC No. 1234/2007),” he stated.
“The EDA also believes that the inclusion of imitation products will create an unfair competition between dairy and imitation products and will block further innovation in dairy product development.”
‘More healthy’ focus
In addition to amending classification under the dairy foods designation, the EDA also hopes to push for a nutrient profile scheme that allows not just the healthiest dairy products to carry claims under the regulation.
Kleibeuker claimed that innovative goods classified as ‘more healthy’ should also be accepted in the nutrient profile scheme under certain conditions.
‘For us, the level of thresholds for the critical nutrients in the scheme is essential for allowing the more healthy and innovative products in each category to carry the claim,” he stated. “We recommend that for the cheese category, the limit for saturated fat should be 20g per 100g of product, and the limit for sodium should be 1000mg per 100g of product.
Failure to do this could result in very few cheeses being able to make nutritional or health claims, said the EDA. The association also hopes to see new limits set within milks fats under that, while maintaining the original guidance of 30g to 100g of product, would increase allowed sodium levels to 1000mg per 100g.