Claims about the relationship between caffeine and alertness and caffeine and increased physical endurance were accepted.

EU Food Safety Agency Rejects Most Health Claims

When the European Food Safety Authority published its opinions April 8 on 442 proposed health claims for food products, it rejected 80 percent of them.

The European Food Safety Authority has rejected 80 percent of the proposed health claims it reviewed for food products to be distributed in the European Union. EFSA, the agency set up to provide independent scientific advice on claimed benefits and on existing and emerging food safety risks, published its opinions on 442 proposed claims April 8. EU member states are responsible for authorizing the claims.

The 442 claims relate to protecting against oxidative damage to body cells, contributing to cognitive or bowel function, or maintaining normal cholesterol levels. EFSA is working on 600 more "general function" health claims that must be assessed by June 2011. "Experts on the panel have completed the evaluation of about 80 percent of 'general function' health claims, excluding the so-called "botanical" claims, and are committed to finalizing the remaining claims by the agreed deadline," said Dr. Juliane Kleiner of EFSA.

Late submissions and a high number of submissions -- around 44,000 in all were consolidated to a list of more than 4,600 -- have caused delays in EFSA's work on them. Three other series of opinions have been published since October 2009.

The agency said many of the rejections stemmed from "the poor quality of the information provided to EFSA'" to support the claims. Its statement said, "Information gaps included, for instance: the inability to identify the specific substance on which the claim is based; the lack of evidence that the claimed effect is indeed beneficial to the maintenance or improvement of body functions; or the lack of precision regarding the health claim being made. In addition, some claims were outside the scope of the current legal framework."

Claims involving walnuts (improved function of blood vessels), the antioxidant effects of polyphenols found in olive oil on LDL cholesterol, and the relationship between caffeine and alertness and caffeine and increased physical endurance were accepted.

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