AFSSA (Agence Francaise de securite sanitaire des aliments) will permit the claim that the North American cranberry VM (vaccinium macrocarpon) can 'help reduce the adhesion of certain E.coli bacteria to the urinary tract walls'.
Food, drink and dietary supplement manufacturers can now use the claim to highlight the health benefits of products containing this cranberry species to consumers.
Cranberries are naturally rich in phenols and antidioxidant compounds proanthocyanidins, which help to prevent disease-causing organisms from causing infection.
Research into the health benefits of cranberries can be traced back to the beginning of the 1990s when the New England Journal of Medicine identified a component in cranberries and blueberries that prevented the adhesion of certain E. Coli bacteria in the gut.
"We've since built up a substantial catalogue of evidence, so we're delighted the cranberry has now been awarded official recognition by AFSSA," said Dr Joe Speroni, the director of research at Ocean Spray, who petitioned the food authority for the claim.
Researchers from Rutgers University in New Jersey and the University of Michigan have also discovered that regular consumption of cranberry juice cocktail may offer protection against certain antibiotic resistant bacteria that cause urinary tract infections.
Ocean Spray also has a growing ingredients business, which has seen strong sales growth in new markets, such as southern Europe, on the back of increasing awareness of the health benefits of cranberries.
"This health claim is only applicable to France, but it will give Ocean Spray a competitive edge in the market for the time being," said a UK-based food consultant.
The claim does not apply to European cranberry-based products.