Progress on VMS maximum levels?
The European Union (EU) Member States working group met again shortly before Christmas to address the question of maximum levels of vitamins and minerals in food supplements and fortified foods.
Some progress, albeit slow, was made. Importantly, it is understood that there is general acceptance of the upper levels proposed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) as the basis for establishing maximum levels, and there is movement towards the acceptance of the UK Expert Group on Vitamin and Mineral levels for those micronutrients where EFSA has set no level. It is understood that the major exception is beta-carotene.
Significantly, a proposal was tabled by Sweden to have "guidance levels" for the group A nutrients in the EHPM/ERNA model (those with the largest margin of safety). Again, it is understood that there was some support for this concept, which will be further discussed at a future meeting when the precise legislative role of such levels in intra-EU trade will also be considered.
In relation to minimum levels, there was general agreement that 15 per cent was the appropriate figure, not 30 per cent.
The next meeting is tentatively scheduled for March, depending on the availability of intake data from the International Life Sciences Institute (ILSI) and from Germany.
Fish oil update
The first meeting of the Working group on hygiene rules for fish oil for human consumption (composed of UK, Spain, France, Denmark, Ireland, Lithuania, Norway and Iceland) was held recently.
The Group's mandate is to consider the hygiene requirements for fish oil production by April 2008, and present proposals to the Standing Committee on the Food Chain and Animal Health, composed by the European Commission and the EU Member States, to either:
- Confirm that the hygiene requirements will stand with no further amendment or derogation; or,
- Propose and agree any changes to the hygiene legislation that are considered necessary and appropriate. (The Commission has confirmed that consideration of the animal by-products regulation (1774/2002) is not within the scope of this group)
Options ranging from no change to the hygiene rules and full implementation when the derogation expires through to significant amendment of the technical rules were identified. However, because the Commission and Member States lack detailed understand of the technical and political realities involved, the Working Group decided to invite relevant stakeholder organisations to their next meeting this month. The Commission is seeking information on suppliers in third countries and in Member States, and the Working Group is especially interested in problems related to raw materials, product types (crude oil, refined oil, etc) and administrative procedures (approval, etc.).
EHPM has been invited to give a short presentation on the practical difficulties that may arise from compliance with the requirements of the Hygiene Regulations that apply to the production of fish oil for human consumption, where it will have the support of another invitee, the Global Organization for EPA and DHA Omega-3s (GOED), which has recently joined IADSA.
BfR opinion on isoflavones
In August of last year the German Federation for Risk Assessment (BfR) published an opinion on isoflavones which was later updated in October. It concluded that isoflavones in food supplements are neither safe nor beneficial in menopausal women, and, as a result local food inspectors asked companies to remove such products from the market.
However, the food supplement group AK NEM of the German Federation for Food Law and Food Science (BLL) has produced two scientific documents which clearly demonstrate that isoflavone intake is not linked to breast/endometrium cancer and is beneficial in woman with menopausal symptoms. The documents also show that BfR had been rather selective in the data it had used, and the data on which its conclusions were based was not up-to-date.
These documents have now been discussed with the German health ministry which has now asked BfR to update its position and has advised its food inspectors that discussion is still ongoing. The next step will be a scientific meeting, which is also likely to involve the European Food Safety Authority.
Views on phytosterols and iron applications sought
A company has applied to the Food Standards Agency (FSA) to sell phytosterols as an ingredient in various food categories including soya drinks, under the simplified procedure for novel foods. On the grounds that it is equivalent to a phytosterol ingredient already approved and authorized in 2004.
A company has amended its application to the FSA to sell ferric sodium EDTA (ethylene-diamine-tetra-acetate) by extending its intended uses.
The company had originally applied to use the substance as a source of iron for use in the manufacture of food for particular nutritional uses and food supplements as a direct replacement for permitted forms of iron. It has now extended its request to include fortified foods.
The FSA is now seeking comment on both the above applications.
Food and consumer safety action plan
Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper recently announced a new Food and Consumer Safety Action Plan. The plan encompasses a comprehensive set of proposed new measures to increase consumer safety by legislating tougher federal government regulation of food, health, and consumer products.
The proposed legislation will include:
- mandatory product recalls when companies fail to act on legitimate safety concerns
- making importers responsible for the safety of goods they bring into Canada
- Increasing maximum fines under the Food and Drug Act from $5,000 up to current international standards
- Better safety information for consumers
- Guidance to industry on building safety throughout the supply chain.