80% of food and drink health claims unprovenEuropean Union issues approved health claims list

14 December 2012

European Union flag

From today, food and drink companies must comply with the European Union’s list of approved health and nutrition claims.

In the past, companies could make claims about their food and drink products without providing the evidence to support them. A company will now be breaking the law if the evidence behind a claim has not been independently assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and then approved by the EU.

Many nutrition claims that used to appear on packaging or in advertising, such as probiotics helping digestion, are now illegal.

Many food claims rejected

Overall, around 80% of claims that were submitted to the EFSA could not be proven. Claims that will disappear from products include:

  • cranberry juice helping to keep the urinary system in a healthy condition
  • some probiotic claims about supporting your natural defences and helping to regulate intestinal flora
  • glucosamine maintaining joint mobility
  • taurine (found in some energy drinks) helping to delay the onset of fatigue and enhancing physical performance.

Approved health and nutrition claims include:

  • calcium is needed for the maintenance of healthy bones and teeth
  • docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) contributes to maintenance of normal brain function and normal vision
  • plant sterols and plant stanols contribute to the maintenance of normal blood cholesterol levels.

New confidence for consumers

Which? executive director Richard Lloyd said:

'Which? has long called for health claims made on foods and food supplements to be backed up by scientific evidence so people don't waste their money. This approved list of EU health claims, based on an assessment of the scientific facts, is long overdue but it finally means consumers can have confidence in the products they are buying.'

The new approval process is good news for consumers, who will no longer be spending money on products that make unfounded promises.

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