Kellerhals, who was speaking to FoodManufacture.co.uk at a Leatherhead Food Research conference on natural trends in food and drink yesterday, said small and medium-sized companies would benefit from collaborating – at least at the pre-competitive stages of research - in order to meet the costs of the ‘gold standard’ studies needed to substantiate health claims.
While only a handful of applications under the EU health claims Regulation had been successful to date, the example of UK firm Provexis – which secured a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for claims about its tomato extract Fruitflow - showed it was possible for smaller companies to succeed if they had the right evidence, he said.
While the high rejection rate for claims meant things could slow down on the functional ingredients front over the next three to four years, they would pick up again, he predicted.
Given the low success rate of applications under article 13.1 of the legislation, which covers claims supported by ‘generally accepted science’, there would also be a flurry of re-submissions under article 13.5 of the Regulation, he suggested.
It’s good to talk
The recent health claims meeting with stakeholders held at EFSA‘s Parma HQ had been useful, he said. It had also highlighted the importance of greater dialogue between EFSA and applicants at every stage of the process.
His comments were echoed by Jens Bleiel, chief executive of Food for Health Ireland (FHI), a new partnership between Irish dairy processors and public research organisations.
FHI, which has recently embarked on an 'intelligent milk mining' initiative, has identified scores of bioactive ingredients from milk that could potentially be developed into functional food ingredients.
FHI partners Glanbia, Kerry, Carbery and Dairygold were direct competitors, but they had recognised that at the pre-competitive stage, it made sense to pool resources, Bleiel told FoodManufacture.co.uk earlier this year: “I think this is a model for the way that food research will work in the future.”
Given the high cost of intervention studies, such companies would increasingly have to work together to fund research and instead compete through applications and marketing, added Bleiel.