Of the 416 claims evaluated, fewer than 2% were approved a rejection rate that calls into question the process itself.
Claims related to antioxidants, bowel function, neurological function and glycaemic index were rejected. The rejection of carbohydrates and their glycaemic indices appear to be at variance with other international bodies. The World Health Organization, for example, not only recognises the concept of glycaemic index, it advocates its wide usage. Yet EFSA states that "carbohydrates that induce a low/reduced glycaemic response and carbohydrates with a low glycaemic index ( < 55), which are the subject of the health claims are not sufficiently characterised".
This is hard to reconcile as the carbohydrate content of several foods have not only been carefully characterised but also recognised as being metabolised and absorbed differently. Even more curious is the approval of beta glucan for lowering cholesterol but not for lowering blood glucose. These anomalies highlight the challenges ahead. EFSA urgently needs to balance scientific judgement and consumer protection with the promotion and nurturing of food innovation within Europe.
Perhaps 'disappointment' is an understatement. There is an urgent need for EFSA and the food industry to recalibrate each other's expectations. If not, like Halley's comet, EFSA will be perceived as a harbinger of doom for the industry and scientists alike and ultimately the consumer will be the loser.
Jeya Henry is Professor of Human Nutrition at Oxford Brookes University.
You can email Jeya at: email@example.com