EFSA gears up for health claims avalanche

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Health claims, European union, Nutrition

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) is preparing
to "significantly" boost resources to deal with what
may be thousands of health claims passed to it for evaluation.

Member States and the Commission have two weeks left to compile dossiers supporting article 13 claims based on generally accepted science and pass them on to EFSA. Under regulation 1924/2006 any food product claiming to have a health or nutritional benefit must meet a list of European Commission approved wording, and be supported by science. To have a chance of a claim being included on EFSA's positive list of generally accepted claims, companies have had to submit a proposal to their national regulator, which then forwards the claim on. Alarm ​ Basil Mathioudakis, head of food law and nutrition at the European Commission, has already expressed his concern over the number of health claims being submitted by industry to Member State regulators - which is already running into the high thousands. Some regulators, like the UK's Food Standards Agency hope to reduce the number of submissions they have received so far. FSA hopes its 2,000 estimated claims can be halved by weeding through duplicates. A spokesperson denied EFSA would outsource the work to other organisations, but said it would call in extra staff to deal with the anticipated tidalwave. EFSA told NutraIngredients.com that is "fully aware of the upcoming task on Article 13 claims​" and will "significantly increase the number of ad hoc experts for claims. The decisive factor for the recruitment will be their expertise, so not necessarily from EFSA." ​ Extra staff will also be called into the panel on dietetic products, nutrition and allergies which will be looking at the claims, It currently has 11 members. Exact numbers will depend on how many dossiers are finally handed to them. "So no concrete numbers available yet,​" the spokesperson added. The European Commission, which will then give the final approval for accepted wording in 2010, was not available to comment on how many proposed claims it had received already prior to publication. Muddy ​Health claims legislation has caused industry anxiety. Guidelines for what kind of science will be accepted have never been made clear. Equally, it has not been specified how consumer understanding of the claims - the second facet to the rule - will be measured. Importantly, the Commission has decided to allow claims based on new science to be submitted along with generally accepted science. Originally claims under article 18 would have had to have waited until the article 13 list was established in 2010. The u-turn was welcomed by trade groups who said the original plan would have stifled innovation.

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