Companies hoping for clarity from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on which food products should fall into the European Union’s nutrient profiling system, are still in the dark an industry adviser has said.
Miguel da Silva, adviser at international food and nutrition policy consultancy EAS, said that the EFSA opinion on the setting of nutrient profiles for foods that bear nutrition and health claims has done little to address industry concerns, because it neither proposes a specific profiling system nor makes any precise recommendations.
Speaking in a podcast interview, Mr da Silva said: “There were a lot of expectations regarding EFSA’s opinion, with many curious to know what it would recommend. Whether profiles should be set for foods in general or per category; which nutrients should be taken into consideration, should the scheme be based on thresholds or on a complicated scoring system, per 100g or per portion, and so forth. In the end, EFSA’s opinion does not answer most of these questions. It simply provides comments on the positive and negative aspects of a number of different food categorisation systems already existing in Europe and globally. ”
The EFSA opinion was published on 26 February this year, and follows the view that any general profiling system should primarily take into consideration saturated fatty acids and sodium as problematic nutrients, and treat unsaturated fatty acids and to a certain extent dietary fibre as positive and desirable nutrients. EFSA also suggests exemptions for food groups that have ‘important dietary roles’, such as vegetable oils and spreadable fats, dairy products, cereals, meat, fish and fruits and vegetables.
Mr da Silva said that the best move for industry would be to closely follow the immediate next steps in the development of the profiles. He added that while companies could be well advised to critically evaluate their product portfolio for potential challenges, such an exercise would nevertheless have to be based on speculation.
“One would have hoped that EFSA’s opinion would provide more clarity or at least some preliminary indications on what the future scheme would look like,” Mr da Silva said. “However, this is not the case, so no-one can really predict today what the Commission will propose.”
The Commission is expected to hold a consultation with Member States and stakeholders in the course of this year. The nutrient profiling system is expected to be established in 2009.
EAS provides strategic consulting advice on European, Asian and international regulation on food and nutritional products. It provides companies with regulatory and strategic advice for the marketing and approval of their products in Europe and Asia. EAS also advises governments, trade associations and companies on the impact of European, Asian and global policy.
EAS has offices in Brussels, Italy and Singapore. EAS Italy is a branch of EAS Europe located in northern Italy to follow EFSA developments in Parma closely. For more information on EAS Europe contact EAS, 50 Rue de l’Association, 1000 Brussels, tel: (+32) (0) 2 218 14 70, email [email protected] or visit www.eas.eu. For information on EAS Asia contact EAS Strategic Advice Pte Ltd, 3 Killiney Road, 07-04 Winsland House I, Singapore 239519, tel: (+65) 68 38 12 70, email: [email protected] or visit www.eas-asia.com