Sweden's regulators have formally recognised a functional food for the first time by approving the country's first product-specific health claim for an innovative yoghurt developed by the Swedish dairy group Skånemejerier.
The claim will be carried on Skånemejerier's Primaliv yoghurt that contains oat beta-glucans as the active ingredient. Oat beta-glucans help the body regulate blood sugar levels and reduce cholesterol. The product can claim to "balance your blood sugar level and lower your cholesterol." It was issued following assessment and acceptance of scientific evidence by an international panel of experts appointed by the industry's newly formed self-regulatory Code of Practice on health claims.
"This is a positive initiative for Sweden to be taking," said Peter Wennstrom of Sweden-based Wennstrom Integrated. "The door is open now for all kinds of functional foods and beverages on the Swedish market to have their 'assets' legitimised and broadcast to the public via health claims such as this one."
A Skånemejerier spokeswoman said the company is now also looking at markets outside Sweden.
Skånemejerier prepared its scientific dossier by conducting clinical tests at nearby Lund University—one of the world's leading research centres investigating blood-sugar response, with a major focus on functional foods research. The study group that ate Primaliv as part of their meal had a 36 per cent lower blood-sugar increase than the control group, and their insulin value also decreased 44 per cent.
The claim is likely to affect a sizeable proportion of the Swedish population, given that more than 350,000 Swedes suffer from diabetes out of a population of about 8 million.
Skånemejerier is the second-largest dairy player in Sweden, with sales in the vicinity of $250 million.