EU health claims process comes under fire

A sugar-reduced yogurt made from Beneo’s chicory root fibre was on show at HiE

A lack of transparency behind the EU health claims approval process is stifling innovation and proving costly to businesses, the director of a global ingredients firm has claimed.

The European Food Safety Authority’s (EFSA’s) approach to evaluating the scientific evidence of health claims should be better communicated to make it easier for companies to meet requirements, Dominique Speleers, executive board member at Beneo Group said.

Speaking exclusively to Food Manufacture at last month’s Health Ingredients Europe (HiE) show, which took place in Frankfurt, Speleers called for EFSA to be more open about the criteria it uses to evaluate the risk and benefit of a particular ingredient.

‘Too much guesswork involved’

He said: “When the health claims regulation was introduced, the level of difficultly to win approval was a big shock. At the moment, there’s too much guesswork involved when we submit claims, as we don’t get a black and white list of criteria from EFSA.

“Companies want to know that if they do the work asked of them, they will get the claim. It would drive down costs.”

Beneo has won four successful EU 13.5 health claims, one of which was an exclusive claim that its chicory root fibre inulin promoted digestive health.

Speleers, who was appointed president of the Federation of European Specialty Food Ingredients Industries (ELC) in November, also disclosed details of a survey of ELC members.

Novel foods process

The survey revealed it took an average of 36 months to win approval for a new product or ingredient under the EU novel foods process.

“If you do the same process outside Europe, it will take on average 12–18 months,” Speleers said.

“So, it’s not a positive thing for the European consumer – and even worse, it could lead some companies to conclude that they don’t have a business case to develop in Europe, and go somewhere else.”

Beneo used HiE to highlight what it claimed was a commitment to sustainable farming and the company’s ongoing investment in factory energy efficiency.

On show was a sugar-reduced strawberry yogurt, made from Beneo’s chicory root fibre, oligofructose.

The yogurt also contained Beneo’s own rice starch, which increases the stability of the fruit preparation and provides a creamy texture to the end product, it said.

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