Insufficient data for flavourings
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) was asked by the European Commission to evaluate 58 flavouring substances, 51 of which occur naturally, in order to build up an authorized list. However, EFSA's recently published opinion found considerable difficulty in carrying out this task.
When attempting to estimate per capita intake of flavouring substances throughout Europe, the data available from industry did not always accord with the approach used?— a method derived from survey data known as the Maximised Survey-derived Daily Intakes (MSDUs) approach.? The main concern was that intake was underestimated, and in EFSA's view,?'For 16 substances, more reliable exposure data are required'.
EU health claims
The European Commission has now received thousands of health claims, ranging from 9 in one Member State, to more than 4000 in another.? It now has the enormous task of organizing these claims for submission to the European Food Safety Authority, possibly by April of this year.
Not surprisingly, there are many duplicates.? Additionally, some Member States sent in everything they received without undertaking any screening, others made comments, remarks and reservations. Some checked that all the claims they submitted were appropriate for the central list, others put in everything, irrespective of whether they were 'generic', disease risk reduction or children's health claims. Some Member States have submitted everything in their national language, others have used English.
In an attempt to manage the complexity of these submissions, the European Commission has now asked Member States to turn their submissions into a format with codes, which can be transferred onto a database which would enable easier comparison, tracking, etc.? Member States have been asked to:
- code the category of the substance, e.g. botanical, probiotic, vitamin, etc.
- code the classification of the claim, e.g. nutrition claim, general well-being claim, reduction of disease risk claim, etc.
- code the domain of the claim, e.g. bone health, gut health, body weight, etc.
- code the conditions of use
Draft on nutrition labelling
The European Commission is currently working on a proposal for amendments to the Nutrition Labelling Directive. Amendments of particular interest to the food supplement industry include the following:
- Revisions to the lists of vitamins and minerals and their Reference Daily Allowance (RDA) values:? the Commission proposed maintaining folate and calcium RDAs at their current values, and confirmed its intention to otherwise revise the list of vitamin and mineral RDAs to bring it into line with those set out in the 2003 opinion of the Scientific Committee for Foods. The Commission considers this to be the most suitable for use as common European Union wide RDAs, until such time as the European Food Safety Authority is able report further on the issue.
It is understood that the reason for maintaining folic acid at its current level is the Commission's response to the concerns of several Member States that a higher value might encourage more fortification. This is felt to be inappropriate, particularly in the light of the current concerns about links between folic acid intake and cancer.? For calcium, the value of 800 mcg is apparently set to allow dairy products, in particular milk, to be able to meet the minimum requirement to make health claims, which would not be possible if the RDA was set at 1000 mcg.
- Definition of Dietary Fibre
The Commission is working on the assumption that the current Codex definition will be adopted.? However, it will still take into account further scientific evidence for alternatives.? Once a definition is finally agreed, the Commission will consider guidance on analytical methods.
- Changing/updating lists of energy conversion factors (ECFs)
The present ECFs, as set out in the current Nutrition Labelling Directive, are to be maintained, with the addition of the following energy conversion factors:
—?Fibre 2 kcal/g / 8 kJ/g
— Erythitrol 0 kcal/g / 0 kJ/g
Natural health assoc. seeks funding
The Canadian government has allocated $33 million from its 2008 Federal Budget to its Natural Health Products Directorate (NHPD).? The money is intended to help the NHPD deal with a serious backlog of product applications dating back to 2004, the date when the Canadian Natural Health Product regulations came into being.
However, while welcoming the funding, Penelope Marrett, President and CEO of the Canadian Health Product Association (CHFA) has publicly expressed concern that it will not be sufficient to ensure that the backlog is dealt with quickly and efficiently and that the Directorate has the necessary resources to appropriately enforce regulations which affect the 50,000 Natural Health Products (NHPs) currently on the Canadian market:? 'The government needs to do more to strengthen the ability of Canadians to better manage their own care, including the use of NHPs — enhancing self-care is of primary importance to Canadians and will save Canada's health system millions of dollars a year'.
Fruit juice claims
In response to increased concern from consumers, industry and regulatory agencies about 'therapeutic' and 'health' claims for fruit juice products, including Goji and Noni juice, the Complementary Health Council (CHC) and the Direct Selling Association of Australia (DSAA) have produced an advice document to help marketers, distributors and retailers ensure that the products they deal with are legally compliant.
The document clearly states that therapeutic and health claims can only be made for products classified as therapeutic. Goji, Noni (and other juices making health claims)? are classified as foods and therefore are not permitted to make such claims.
- The US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is to amend the health claim regulation entitled "Soluble fiber from certain foods and risk of coronary heart disease (CHD)" so that barley betafiber becomes eligible as a source of beta-glucan soluble fiber.
- Last summer dioxin contamination was found in Indian guar gum, a thickening agent used in a wide range of food products. The European Commission has decided that for the time being all guar gum imported into Europe from India should be tested for PCP.
- The Food Standards Agency (FSA) has recently published its second Processed Food Data Bank, a reference tool designed to provide indicative information on the levels of sodium, fat, sugar and other nutrients in processed foods.? http://www.food.gov.uk/news/newsarchive/2008/feb/pdfbroundtwo
- The Food Standards Agency (FSA) advisory committee on novel foods has produced a draft opinion on an application for algal extract for use as an ingredient for food supplement manufacturers to use in capsules and tablets.