The European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) recent rejection of about 70% of over 500 article 13.1 health claims was met with roars of disbelief from the food industry, particularly since all 181 probiotic claims failed to receive support. Although I fully appreciate the industry's position and challenges, I think that EFSA is doing exactly what it is supposed to do. If the science does not stack up, why should the claim be allowed?
With a few notable exceptions, the submissions have not been based on research specially designed to substantiate the actual claim. For example, studies carried out on sick patients are not appropriate to support claims for healthy consumers. One further article 13.5 submission related to breast enhancement was supported by weak human evidence and by a study in rats. There is no substitute for properly powered, double-blind, placebo-controlled, human intervention studies!
A misconception also exists that EFSA demands an expensive clinical study to pharmaceutical industry standards. This is not the case. EFSA has published guidelines, albeit somewhat later in some cases than many would have liked, on what is needed to support a claim.
I am on the steering group of the BBSRC's Diet and Health Research Industry Club (DRINC). The club is supported by the food industry, Leatherhead and Campden BRI and has already issued £8M of grants to 15 Universities to carry out excellent quality research related to diet and health. For example, Imperial College London, with help from Leatherhead scientists, is researching mechanisms underpinning satiety. It is work like this that will support future claims.
So let's work together as an industry and concentrate on making the guidance clear, the submissions complete and the science excellent.
I'm always happy to help.
Dr Paul Berryman chief executive officer
Leatherhead Food Research