Nutrition claim threat to botanics?

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: European union, Nutrition, Efsa

The European Botanical Forum has said there needs to be changes to
the health and nutrition claims regulation, which does not include
any reference to the traditional use of botanicals as food

The group says traditional botanicals now face an uncertain future in wake of the EU rule, which came into force on Sunday. Under the new regulations any company making a food or nutritional claim on its product has to be backed up and clarified by a scientific fact. The regulations mean that no food product will be allowed to be labelled under vague or generic terms such as 'good for your heart', 'help lower cholesterol' or branded as a 'superfood' without scientific backing. But the European Botanical Forum (EBF) want another clause to be added to the list of acceptable claims for botanicals in food if there has been long-standing use and a history of safe experiences. The European Commission insists the regulations will make food labels in the EU clear and the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) will decide which health claims are accessible. The authority said then that only a claim which is scientifically substantiated will be authorised. Although the regulation came into force from Sunday, companies and businesses will have until September 21 to get their health or nutritional claim added to the official list before it is agreed by member states. Previously the rules on claims have been very general, but this regulation will mean vague nutritional claims like 'low in salt' and 'light' will have to meet a standardized definition agreed by the EU. EBF fears a whole range of botanicals maybe under threat. For example, teas containing plant extracts such as camomile may not be able to claim the drink was relaxing without a clinical trial being carried out. Should this happen the financial burden may fall on an individual small to medium enterprise to carry out the trial, the forum said. At the moment the forum says EFSA has not stated what health or nutritional claims it would accept for botanics. EBF secretary general Patrick Coppens told "It is a very uncertain time at the moment. If botanicals were not allowed to make a claim it would be difficult for consumers to know what the product is for. It would be a dangerous situation." ​ The forum feels particularly aggrieved as the commission allows for some types of plant-derived ingredient to be us as herbal medicine based on whether it has a traditional use of more than 30 years with no clinical proof. Forum chairman Manfred Ruthsatz said: "It is disproportionate and incongruous that a product for a therapeutic purpose can be based on traditional use with no evidence of efficacy required, and yet a health claim on a food that is based on traditional use has no opportunity in the EFSA document to be used as supporting evidence. "Botanical ingredients are a growing market in terms of both food and food supplements, and traditional use should be taken into account so as not to endanger the use of botanicals in foods, herbal teas and food supplements. This waythe market can continue to provide all European consumers with safe and well-established products to enhance their health in a natural way." ​ The EFSA, which is in charge of drawing up a list of permitted health claims, was not available for comment prior to publication.

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