The Beneo-Institute has warned that the European Nutrition & Health Claims Regulation recognises only foods which offer active, medicine-like benefits at the expense of products that are generally healthy.
The body, which is the recently founded research arm of European functional ingredients supplier Beneo-Group, said in its Window to Science magazine: "Whilst the definition of a Health Claim is broad, the current interpretation and assessment may narrow the broad scope to active, drug type components. In other words: a claim for 'normal healthy food' indicating its physiological characteristics does not seem to comply with the regulation."
Replacing a food component with another so that the health profile of a product was improved did not seem to be acceptable as a claim, observed the Institute. "The European Food Safety Authority interpretation of what 'health' is and what is 'beneficial to health' is of concern. The current applied EFSA approach acknowledges a factor associated with a disease as a marker for health, but struggles with the measurement of positive health markers, eg the increase of bifidobacteriacea.
"Many examples show that slight modifications in a diet (eg the choice of specific carbohydrates by replacing high glycaemic with low glycaemic carbohydrates or the replacement of saturated fats by unsaturated fats) can bring about major health effects on a long term.
"There is a need for dialogue among the scientists to establish a basis of satisfying evidence for such true health claims based on the totality of knowledge and markers in the respective field for the ultimate benefit of the consumer."
Beneo-Group is in the process of preparing Article 13.5 health claims dossiers relating to range of ingredients, including Palatinose, a low glycaemic carbohydrate isomaltulose derived from sugar, which can be used instead of sucrose in food and beverage products.