The shelves of supermarkets and drugstores are full of foodstuffs and supplements that are claimed to promote well-being or health. Producers have much leeway to make such claims. Soon, however, nutritional and health claims will be allowed only if they have been approved by the European Union.
The EU recently had 3000 potential claims assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). EFSA has advised negatively about 80% of these claims, including those for probiotics and antioxidants. Some producers and researchers believe that EFSA is making excessive demands and that this will harm both industrial innovation and the health of consumers.
EFSA assesses applications according to their scientific merit, i.e. is the claim substantiated by thorough scientific research in humans? This means, for example, that producers may have to set up randomised trials that measure the effect of foods or ingredients on disease rates. Such trials are often expensive. One issue is whether the substantial value attached to trials in humans is correct in all cases and whether research into mechanisms or biomarkers does yield equally valid evidence.
During the meeting, researchers from different disciplines and ESFA scientists will debate the substantiation of nutritional health claims.