EFSA evaluates “general function” health claims

by Editor fleischwirtschaft.com
Tuesday, April 19, 2011

EFSA’s NDA Panel has published the outcome of the evaluations of a fourth series of “general function” health claims proposed for use on food products. The 442 claims assessed relate to health relationships in such areas as: protection against oxidative damage to body cells, contribution to either cognitive or bowel function; and maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.

These opinions will help inform future decisions of the European Commission and EU Member States which are responsible for the authorisation of the claims. EFSA will finalise the evaluation of the remaining 600 “general function” health claims which need to be assessed by June 2011.

Claims evaluated with a favourable outcome include the relation between: walnuts and improved function of blood vessels; the antioxidant effects of polyphenols found in olive oil on LDL cholesterol; and the relation between caffeine and alertness and caffeine and increased physical endurance. The experts also conclude that a number of claims based on the replacement of certain nutrients were supported by sufficient scientific evidence including: the replacement of digestible starch by resistant starch to lower the increase of blood glucose levels after meals; the replacement of saturated fatty acids with mono- and polyunsaturated fatty acids to maintain normal blood cholesterol levels; as well as the role of a range of sugar replacers (e.g. xylitol or sorbitol) in maintaining tooth mineralisation or lowering the increase of blood glucose levels after meals.

As for previous evaluations, many of the unfavourable opinions in this series were linked to the poor quality of the information provided to EFSA. Information gaps included, for instance: the inability to identify the specific substance on which the claim is based; the lack of evidence that the claimed effect is indeed beneficial to the maintenance or improvement of body functions; or the lack of precision regarding the health claim being made. In addition, some claims were outside the scope of the current legal framework.
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