EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) said causality had been demonstrated between vitamin D and calcium consumption in the form of fresh dairy cheese among children and bone health.
But it did not approve claims relating phosphorous and protein consumption because these nutrients were not shown to be deficient among children and adolescents anywhere in the EU’s 27-member states.
The NDA recommended the following wordings as being reflective of the scientific evidence:
- “calcium is needed for the normal growth and development of bone in children”
- “vitamin D is needed for the normal growth and development of bone in children”
Danone’s submitted claim stated: “Dairy fresh cheese contains calcium, vitamin D, phosphorus and protein, nutrients that contribute to healthy bone growth”
Danone’s submission, made to the Spanish food agency, related to all foods based on fresh cheese made from cows’ milk containing at least 120mg of calcium, 120mg of phosphorus and 0.75μg of vitamin D per daily portion of 100g.
It also referenced a protein level of at least 20 per cent of the energy value. The dossier contained no intervention studies.
As opposed to previous health claim opinions where EFSA found dairy products and ingredients were not sufficiently characterised to warrant health claims, the assessor had no problem this time around.
While it noted there existed “good consensus on the role of protein and phosphorus in growth and development of bone”, it said the application lacked evidence demonstrating there was a children’s population deficiency and therefore ruled the claims unnecessary.
“Many nutrients contribute to normal growth and development of bone,” it wrote. “A dose-response relationship has not been established between either protein or phosphorous intakes within (or above) the range observed in European populations and normal growth and development of bone in children or adolescents.”
It added that an approved health claim for either nutrient may attribute an importance to them not backed up by the available scientific data.
On the other hand, “Intakes for calcium and vitamin D may be inadequate for normal growth and development of bone in subgroups of children and adolescents in a number of EU countries” it stated.
Examples of products that may be able to employ the claims include cream cheese, ricotta, cottage cheese, farmer's cheese, fromage frais, mascarpone, mozzarella, curd-cheese or quarkand queso blanco.
The opinion, along with the other 30 or so claims that EFSA has assessed so far, is now passed to the European Commission and member states for further assessment before a final health claim is finalised and published, or rejected.
The first batch of health claims is expected to pass into the legislature in the first half of this year.
EFSA has more than 4000 article 14 and article 13 claims to process before a January, 2010 deadline.