By Shane Starling, 05-Nov-2010
With antioxidants failing to impress European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientists and the term itself therefore likely to soon become an unauthorised health claim in the EU, antioxidant forms like polyphenols are filling the marketing void, a Coca-Cola spokesperson has said.
Michele Kellerhals, Coke’s Belgium-based research and innovation director told the Fresenius Functional Food conference last week that the world’s biggest beverage company had been watching the EU health claims situation very closely and noted developments in the area of antioxidants.
In a Q&A session on the first day of the two-day conference in Frankfurt, Germany, Kellerhals commented on the vast rejection of article 13, generic antioxidant claims by EFSA’s health claims panel to date.
“Industry will build the term polyphenols over time,” he said after a presentation outlining Coke’s approach to healthy beverages. “There is no doubt there has been some level of impact for us but others have been impacted more. The problem we all have now is how to translate what is happening into consumer-friendly messaging.”
“It is something we are working on. When you talk to some marketing people they think a claim is the easy way out. But when you talk to consumers, that is not the case. But we see this process an opportunity for the industry.”
EFSA’s health claims panel has stated: “…no evidence has been provided to establish that having antioxidant activity/content and/or antioxidant properties is a beneficial physiological effect.”
But just two weeks ago, in the third batch of article 13.1 opinions, the panel concluded of vitamin E, “that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary intake of vitamin E and protection of DNA, protein and lipids from oxidative damage.”
So the panel has acknowledged an antioxidant effect in that instance as it has done with vitamin C. It is now down to the European Commission and member states to interpret these opinions before adoption, rejection or amendment, and the use of terms like ‘polyphenol’ or ‘flavonol’ that are relevant to them.
But this won’t happen until at least the end of next year.
Funcitonal Foods conference
While the conference had a scientific bent with many academics presenting updates on areas such as fibre (Dr Fred Brouns, Maastricht University, the Netherlands), pro- and prebiotics (Dr Kristin Verbeke, University Leuven, Belgium), brain health (Dr Louise Dye, University of Leeds, UK) and diabetes (Dr Gabriele Riccardi, Frederico II University, Italy) the Q&A sessions revealed how primary the EU health claim situation had become.
All four pointed to emerging and promising science but noted in many cases the kind of evidence EFSA sought was not fully in existence, and it may take some time before that was the case, if ever.
Sam Waterfall, from the UK-based Healthy Marketing Team, a firm that consults functional food brands, responded to a question about probiotic claims by saying regardless of EFSA mass rejecting them so far, the ‘probiotic health story’ was so strong that consumers didn’t care.
He likened it the Popeye-spinach story, where consumers had constructed a health halo around the vegetable even if research indicated that the iron in regular spinach showed poor bioavailability.
“But there are contingency plans in place because obviously changes are occurring in what can and can’t be said about these kinds of products,” Waterfall said.
Conference chair, Nigel Baldwin, from the consultancy Cantox International, noted the panel had expressed a, “dislike of the term ‘immunity',” and future submissions should be aware of that.
Other speakers at the event included Barbara Klaus from the legal firm Meyer Meisterernst in Italy; Deiderick Meyer from Sensus; Gerd Harzer from Kraft Foods R&D and Gerrit Smit and Elke Trautwein from Unilever R&D.
NutraIngredients health claims 2010
These matters and more will be discussed at the second NutraIngredients Health Claims 2010 conference to be held in Brussels on December 1. The conference will deconstruct the latest article 13.1 claim opinions, hear first-hand experience from players like Kellogg’s and Martek, outline regulation-coping marketing strategies, and feature comparison with the US claims system from leading industry figures, Dr Andrew Shao and Jonathan Emord.
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