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Experts reject probiotic claims

6th October 2009

A group of experts working for the European Union's European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) has concluded that health claims for probiotic drinks are unfounded.

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A committee is now drawing up a list of permissible claims that the manufacturers of the drinks will be able to use instead.

The EFSA's review of products that make health benefit claims comes nearly four years after the EU ruled that all such claims be verified by a team of experts.

The European Commission plans to develop legislation that will determine which words can used to describe probiotic drinks and other such products, and all such products will remain unchanged until the EU member states have cast their vote.

Albert Flynn, chairman of the EFSA panel investigating such products, said that claims for health benefits by food manufacturers have been an issue for some time, and that some general health claims are even made about products using the family name for the active ingredient, so that that the package does not say which member of the family is in the product.

He said that his panel now expects the claims that will come from the companies that produce such products will be much more specific.

A Yakult spokesman said that Yakult has submitted claims for Lactobacillus casei Shirota, a well characterised probiotic strain unique to Yakult, with evidence based on over 70 human studies and over 70 years of research.

The companies that manufacture products such as Actimel and Yakult have submitted claims that will be reviewed when the EFSA turns its attention from general health claims to specific ones.

Of over 500 claims made by different companies about the healthfulness of their products, roughly one third were approved by the panel.

These included claims about vitamins or minerals, fibre, and probiotic content.

Flynn said that there were many claims on the market and consumers needed to be reassured that these claims were accurate and were backed by science.

He said that, from an industry perspective, it means that there will be a level playing field for food companies so that they compete fairly and make only claims that are authorised.

Some 4,000 claims await investigation by the EFSA.

 

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Comments

Sara Jones

Friday 23rd October 2009 @ 17:49

I don't think the implications here are fair. Health Claims on probiotics did not fail, but they were returned without being assessed. See the following article - http://bit.ly/mG9dm


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