EFSA’s pharma approach to health claims “medicalises food”

The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has been accused of ‘medicalising’ foods by insisting on a pharmaceutical-style approach to health claims evaluation.

The charge is contained in an analysis by the European Responsible Nutrition Alliance (ERNA) of EFSA’s latest article 13.1 opinions, which was sent to the European Commission this week.

In its analysis ERNA points out that in its first and second batch of opinions on 13.1 (general function) claims, EFSA has “delivered un-favourable opinions on the scientific substantiation of well recognised food components, including glucosamine, chondroitine, alpha-lipoic acid, lutein, beta-carotene, to name a few”. ERNA expresses particular concern that “for claims relating to substances other than essential nutrients, only those that actually relate to the reduction of a disease risk have received positive opinions”.

ERNA says that instead of specific approaches being adopted for specific claim-types, all claims are now considered in the same way. It adds that “only claims that show improvements of disease related end points have a chance of being considered positively”.

ERNA fears that the current process leads to a “fundamental medicalisation” of food and will remove much useful information on the contribution that food components may have for health. Removing such information, it argues, will ultimately result in reduced consumer choice.