IADSA briefs

Nutrient profiles
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has published a report on its recent scientific colloquium on nutrient profiles and the conditions concerning the nutrient content of foods which will determine which foods are allowed to carry nutrition and health claims.

The colloquium considered issues such as whether one profile should be set for all foods or different profiles for different food categories; the choice and balance of nutrients to be taken into account in the profiling system; the feasibility and testing of any proposed system — and the need for the final system to be simple, flexible and likely to encourage food manufacturers to improve the nutritional value of foods.

One possible approach considered was an "across the board" system using a single nutrient profile for all foods, but with a limited number of derogations or exceptions for certain foods or food categories. EFSA is now reviewing the scientific basis for defining a limited set of food categories for which such exemptions could be applied by risk managers, based on their nutrient content and contribution to diet.

EFSA's panel on dietetic products, nutrition and allergies (NDA) was due to provide an advice on nutrient profiles and propose a scheme by last month. After further consultation, the European Commission then needs to establish a nutrient profiling system by January 2009.

EFSA safety guidance for botanicals
In order to try to determine a comprehensive and harmonised approach to assessing their risk, the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) Scientific Committee has now published a draft document on assessing the safety of botanicals used as food supplements, together criteria to prioritise such products for safety assessment. The Committee has also prepared two draft compendia listing botanicals that contain natural compounds that may deserve specific attention when looking at their safe use in food.

A public consultation closed on February 15, 2008. For further detail see: http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178669754855.htm. The European Botanical Forum will hold a meeting in late January to consider its response.

Following the consultation, the draft approach for safety assessment will be tested with real cases by a specially formed Working Group of the Scientific Committee and the Advisory Forum.

Opinions on lutein, calcium citrate malate & beeswax
In response to a request from the European Commission, the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) Scientific Panel on Food Additives, Flavourings, Processing Aids and Materials in Contact with Food (AFC) has recently given its opinion on lutein extracted from Tagetes erecta (marigold flowers) and from some species of edible plants for use in the manufacture of foods for particular nutritional uses (FPNUs).

Lutein extracted from Tagetes erecta and from other species of edible plants is already permitted for use as a food additive, and the requested product has the same specifications. The product in question has the same specifications as the approved food additive.

The petitioner wishes to use lutein in Foods for Special Medical Purposes (FSMPs) at levels that would give rise to a daily intake of 0.5 ? 2mg, within the range of regular dietary intake. On this basis, the AFC Panel did not consider that there were safety concerns for use in FSMPs.

Calcium citrate malate:
The AFC Panel was also asked by the Commission to give its opinion on the safety and bioavailability of calcium citrate malate as a source for calcium intended for use in foods for particular nutritional purposes (PARNUTS) and in foods intended for the general population, including food supplements.

The Panel's opinion was that the safety data available for this particular source of calcium was sufficient to permit its safe use in PARNUTS foods, other foods and food supplements at the maximum levels estimated in the opinion.

EFSA has published the AFC Panel's opinion on beeswax as a glazing agent and as a carrier for flavours. The AFC Panel concluded that the use of beeswax as an additive for the existing food uses and the proposed new food use is not of safety concern. Noting that beeswax specifications for lead were 5 mg/kg in the European legislation and had been set at 2 mg/kg by the Joint FAO/WHO Expert Committee on Food Additives (JECFA), the Panel considers that the specification for lead levels should be set as low as possible.

RDA-based VMS levels
Last November, the Irish Department of Health, on the advice of the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI), recommended that the maximum permitted levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements should not be permitted at levels higher than the Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA), on the grounds that this would ?enable protection against unknown effects of excessive consumption of nutrients.'

The FSAI's recommendation, coming at a time when the European Commission is considering the harmonization of upper levels for vitamins and minerals throughout the European Union, has engendered strong reaction amongst supplement manufacturers, retailers and consumers, including the presentation of a petition to the Irish health minister.

United States
China food safety agreement
Following a number of cases of contamination involving Chinese products imported from China, the United States and China have now signed an agreement designed to improve the safety of food exports.

Essentially, the document covers registration, certification and verification. It requires Chinese food and ingredient producers to register with local authorities, who are themselves required to share data with the Department of Health and Human Service (HHS), and it also requires the authorities to notify their counterparts of events affecting the food chain. It is also understood that the Chinese authorities are to develop an electronic tracking system to follow products from production to export.

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