The first batch of 'article 13.1' health claims opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has brought little cheer to suppliers of the long chain omega-3s EPA and DHA.
Although EFSA issued positive opinions about EPA/DHA and reducing blood pressure and blood concentrations of triglycerides; and DHA and visual development, it has given a big thumbs down to almost everything else omega-3-related to date. This includes claims about EPA/DHA and brain development, mental function and joint health.
Equally frustratingly for EPA/DHA suppliers, it has also emerged that manufacturers wishing to make the nutrition claims 'source of omega-3' or 'high in omega-3' on pack will be able to do so on the basis of adding either EPA/DHA (from fish oil or microalgae) or ALA a shorter chain omega-3 derived from plants such as flax.
This is despite the fact that virtually all of the health benefits associated with omega-3s are linked to EPA and DHA and not to ALA which the body is very poor at converting into EPA and DHA.
On the plus side, there are still scores of EPA/DHA-related health claim applications still pending, including several generic heart health claims and a raft of claims about DHA and eye and brain development, maternal health and mood.
Likewise, the fact that EFSA has set recommended daily intakes (RDIs) for EPA/DHA also implies that it accepts at least some of the science behind them and indicates that a positive opinion about a generic cardiovascular claim is likely, according to industry sources.
EFSA has to date issued negative opinions about two-thirds of the first batch of article 13.1 claims submitted for assessment under the EU health claims Regulation.
l See feature, p43