Dairy industry lobbies for health claims approval

Related tags Health claims Milk Nutrition Dairy uk

Milk, cheese and dairy products could soon carry generic health
claims, providing they are approved by a panel of health and
nutrition experts, Tom Armitage reports.

The collective UK dairy industry has begun to submit a raft of proposals to the Joint Health Claims Initiative (JHCI)​, an independent panel of experts able to validate health claims, in an attempt to formally link dairy consumption with its purported health benefits.

Under current UK law, food makers are forbidden to claim that their products can cure, prevent or treat a disease. They can, however, make health claims about their products (which currently relies on a voluntary code of practice), providing that they are able to produce sufficient scientific evidence.

"There are many foods that single out benefits, although it is very tricky making health claims without infringing the law,"​ Dr. Ed Komorowski, Dairy UK's technical director told DairyReporter.com​.

The Milk Development Council (MDC), the government-appointed marketing body for the UK milk industry, together with the Dairy Council and dairy industry association Dairy UK have applied to the JHCI in respect of at least two generic health claims.

The first, already filed to the JCHI, concerns cheese, which is said to be beneficial to dental health and hygiene when consumed after a meal or sugary snack.

The second, assembled, but yet to be submitted, links the consumption of milk with maintaining bone health and also helpful in preventing bone disorders, for instance osteoporosis.

Dairy UK advises that consuming 200ml of milk can provide around one third of the recommended calcium intake per day, while the remainder can be found in dairy products, such as yoghurt or cheese.

If the raft of claims is approved, dairy producers will be able to use them for advertising and marketing purposes, as well as on product labelling - something which will inevitably serve as a useful weapon in fending off the burgeoning popularity of functional dairy-based beverages and fortified dairy alternatives, and also serve in re-establishing milk's retail positioning as a premium, healthy product.

A recent survey​ from the European Food Information Council (EUFIC), the Brussels-based food and health education service, found that generic labelling such as the labels "low-fat"​ and "light"​ (despite not qualifying as health claims) proved popular with consumers and had a positive impact on sales.

Since 2001, when the JCHI was founded, only five generic health claims have been approved, including one linking the consumption of whole grain foods to increased heart health and another linking the consumption of soya protein to lowering blood cholesterol.

An unfavourable ruling, however, would not necessarily scupper Dairy UK's long-term plans.

"There is a regulation in the pipeline, building on the JHCI's work, which would potentially allow European food producers to make health claims, providing they are approved by the European Food Safety Authority - although this is still a long way off,"​ Dr. Komorowski suggested.

In order to secure the JCHI's endorsement, a claim must first be approved before a committee of scientific and legal experts - a process which can take a number of months.

Related topics Markets Dairy Health Check

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