EU dairy groups look to generic health claims future

By Neil Merrett

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Dairy council Nutrition National dairy council

A number of recent studies have continued to suggest links between dairy consumption and certain nutrition benefits, though their impact on helping on securing industry-wide European health claim approvals looks uncertain.

According to UK body The Dairy Council, the journal-published studies reflect ongoing work in supporting general dairy health claims such as weight loss and bone density benefits, which relate to article 13 of the EU regulation on nutrition and health.

However, European counterparts suggest the industry may have to forgo trying to obtain claims on more specific children’s and disease reduction benefits under article 14 of the regulations, which they claim are more suited to individual products and not an entire segment.

Regulation focus

Under new regulation adopted back in 2006, in order to obtain health claims for products sold in the bloc, approval must be sought by the European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA).

Back in September, the NDA rejected two of the claims relating to article 14, put forward by the Ireland-based National Dairy Council (NDC), suggesting that consumption of a wide-variety of dairy goods may be beneficial to fighting disease.

This rejection has now apparently led to a change of tactic for the industry though, which believes that article 14 health claims are more suited to individual products, rather than dairy goods as a whole.

Helen Brophy, chief executive of the NDC, told that​adapting to the new health claim regulations continued to be a learning process for the industry, adding that it would therefore try and focus more on article 13 claims in the future.

“We tried to demonstrate generically that there was a dairy-wide benefit to reducing certain kinds of disease and for children’s health,”​ she said.

Brophy stessed that the level of scientific evidence needed to clarify these benefits was difficult to prove for an entire segment of goods, leading the council to drop the claims after the NDA published its initial decision back in September.

Future focus

In going forward, Brophy suggested that it would now look to work with European dairy organisations to focus on pushing through with obtaining article 13 claims such as being beneficial to weight loss and bone health.

According to Doctor Judith Bryans, director for the Dairy Council, studies recently findings appearing in the International Journal of Obesity and Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise​ were increasingly lending support to such a focus.

Bryans suggested in particular that claims linking weight loss with consuming more high calcium dairy goods was a key area for dairy health claims ,

“As a variety of studies have suggested that dairy foods have a modest effect in helping with weight loss and fat loss in the abdominal area, work on this will continue to be carried out,”​ she stated. “Some article 13 claims have been submitted on in dairy and weight management; however, it won’t be known for some time if these will be successful”

The latest findings highlighted by the Dairy Council relate to two different studies. One of the studies appearing in the International Journal of Obesity​ focused on how high-calcium diets affected weight loss in Danish men and woman. The other research, which appears in the Medicine and Science in Sports & Exercise tested calcium’s impact on​ bone mineral density in UK military recruits.


In the Danish study, male and female respondents were said to have undergone high-calcium diets for seven days, before taking a week break ahead of a weeklong trial for low calcium diets.

The levels of calcium intake were then compared in regards to fat excretion, which the Dairy Council claims show that higher calcium intake may decrease the amount of fat absorbed into the body.

“Low-fat dairy foods were the main source of calcium given to the participants, and the researchers found that increasing dairy calcium from 700mg/day to 2300mg/day more than doubled the fat excreted by the participants,”​ stated Bryans. “They suggested that the calcium may decrease the amount of fat absorbed by the body and this could potentially lead to weight loss.”

In the military-focused study, it was suggested that dairy, like any high calcium source, or vitamin D supplement consumption, may improve bone mineral density and prevent stress fractures, suggested the Dairy Council.

The findings, came from a review of various studies​and the Bone Health and Military Medical Readiness (BHMMR) research program to find new means of working to prevent stress fractures.

The testing was carried out specifically on military recruits as opposed to the general public.

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