European Members of Parliament have voted not to block the approval of a health claim linking DHA fatty acids in infant formula with visual development in very young children.
A resolution opposing the Article 14 health claim, which had received a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), was put to the European Parliament for a ballot on April 6 – but did not achieve the necessary qualified majority of votes.
MEPs voted 328 in favor of the resolution, 323 against, with 26 abstentions. To be passed, the resolution required at least 388 votes in favor.
The result means the way is now clear for the claim “DHA intake contributes to the normal visual development of infants up to 12 months of age” to be added to the European Commission’s list of permitted health claims.
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EFSA, which is assessing all health claims applications under the Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation, approved the Article 14 health claim in March 2009. It was submitted by infant formula manufacturer Mead Johnson Nutritionals.
However, four MEPs recently drew up a resolution opposing adoption of the claim, which was subsequently tabled by the European Parliament’s Public Health & Food Safety Committee for a plenary vote.
The MEPs who submitted the resolution argued that there was no scientific consensus on the effect that DHA-fortified formulas have on infants. As such, they said, the approved health claim could be misleading.
There was intense lobbying on both sides, from the food industry and anti-infant formula pressure groups opposed to the claim, in the run-up to the vote.
DHA (docosahexaenoic acid) is a fatty acid naturally occurring in breast milk, but many baby milk formulas include it as a synthetic additive.