Inquiry pours doubt on benefit of health foods

I believe that the vitamin supplements and dietary changes I made over a year ago with the advice of a registed nutrionist, was a major factor in helping me ovulate again (after my periods returned following chemotherapy, but my cycle was messed up and I wasn’t ovulating).  So, it is with great interest that I read this article in yesterday’s Sunday Times newspaper, in particular the part relating to Equezen pregancy and pre-pregnancy supplements. I actually had this product in my hands in the health food store last week, and was tempted to buy it after reading its claims.  It is not going to put me off taking my vitamin supplements, but I will be more circumspect in what I chose to take. I certainly would agree with the statement below that onsumers have been bamboozled by unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of foods for too long. What do you think?

More than 50 food products and supplements have been exposed by a Europe-wide investigation for making unproven claims about their health benefits.

Ocean Spray cranberry juice, Lipton black tea and some probiotic supplements are among the items whose claimed health benefits are scientifically unproven, according to an investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Fish oil supplements which purport to improve brain growth in babies and children have come under particular scrutiny, with the agency rejecting most of the benefits claimed by manufacturers.

The initial results of the inquiry suggest that consumers could be wasting millions of pounds each year on products they think will improve their diet and lifestyle.

Firms whose claims have already been rejected include Ocean Spray, which had suggested that its cranberry juice could protect women against urinary infections.

The agency also rejected an application from Unilever which sought to claim that drinking Lipton black tea makes people more alert.

“We have examined the science put forward by the companies to support their products and in many cases found it did not support the claims they were making,” said an EFSA spokesman.

The agency’s rulings have shocked the food and supplements industries, where the “health benefits” conferred by products is often a cornerstone of marketing.

“This is a long overdue revolution in the food industry,” said Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London. “Consumers have been bamboozled by unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of foods for too long.”

The EFSA findings are the result of the European Union’s nutrition and health food regulation of 2006 which requires manufacturers to substantiate any health claims.

The agency’s uncompromising approach has persuaded some companies, including Nestlé and Unilever, to remove products from the EFSA verification process. One idea is that some companies want a chance to lobby for the rules to be relaxed before submitting amended applications.

Danone, one of the biggest manufacturers of probiotic yoghurts and drinks, is one of the companies to withdraw from the EFSA tests. This year it is on course to sell 480m bottles of Actimel in the UK and 640m pots of Activia which contain microbes that it claims can improve gut health.

Such massive sales mean the impact of the EFSA rejecting a health claim could be huge. So far the agency’s scientists have slapped down claims made by similar probiotic products.

A Danone spokesman said it would submit new health claims to the EFSA: “These withdrawals in no way put in doubt the soundness of the science behind our applications.”

Although the EFSA rulings have yet to be approved by the European parliament to give them legal weight, manufacturers fear consumers will vote with their feet after a rejection.

Although I eat a pretty healthy diet, I have to admit that I do supplement it with some vitamin supplements, although none of those listed in the following report. So, it is with great interest that I read this article in yesterday’s Sunday Times newspaper. It is not going to put me off taking my vitamin supplements, but I will be more circumspect in what I chose to take. I certainly would agree with the statement below that onsumers have been bamboozled by unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of foods for too long. What do you think?

More than 50 food products and supplements have been exposed by a Europe-wide investigation for making unproven claims about their health benefits.

Ocean Spray cranberry juice, Lipton black tea and some probiotic supplements are among the items whose claimed health benefits are scientifically unproven, according to an investigation by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Fish oil supplements which purport to improve brain growth in babies and children have come under particular scrutiny, with the agency rejecting most of the benefits claimed by manufacturers.

The initial results of the inquiry suggest that consumers could be wasting millions of pounds each year on products they think will improve their diet and lifestyle.

Firms whose claims have already been rejected include Ocean Spray, which had suggested that its cranberry juice could protect women against urinary infections.

The agency also rejected an application from Unilever which sought to claim that drinking Lipton black tea makes people more alert.

“We have examined the science put forward by the companies to support their products and in many cases found it did not support the claims they were making,” said an EFSA spokesman.

The agency’s rulings have shocked the food and supplements industries, where the “health benefits” conferred by products is often a cornerstone of marketing.

“This is a long overdue revolution in the food industry,” said Tim Lang, professor of food policy at City University in London. “Consumers have been bamboozled by unsubstantiated claims about the health benefits of foods for too long.”

The EFSA findings are the result of the European Union’s nutrition and health food regulation of 2006 which requires manufacturers to substantiate any health claims.

The agency’s uncompromising approach has persuaded some companies, including Nestlé and Unilever, to remove products from the EFSA verification process. One idea is that some companies want a chance to lobby for the rules to be relaxed before submitting amended applications.

Danone, one of the biggest manufacturers of probiotic yoghurts and drinks, is one of the companies to withdraw from the EFSA tests. This year it is on course to sell 480m bottles of Actimel in the UK and 640m pots of Activia which contain microbes that it claims can improve gut health.

Such massive sales mean the impact of the EFSA rejecting a health claim could be huge. So far the agency’s scientists have slapped down claims made by similar probiotic products.

A Danone spokesman said it would submit new health claims to the EFSA: “These withdrawals in no way put in doubt the soundness of the science behind our applications.”

Although the EFSA rulings have yet to be approved by the European parliament to give them legal weight, manufacturers fear consumers will vote with their feet after a rejection.

Shane Starling, editor of Nutraingredients.com, the leading food industry journal, said the rulings meant consumers could have more confidence in health claims. “It’s brought turmoil to the food industry, but it is time these claims were scrutinised,” he said.

Source: Sunday Times

Shane Starling, editor of Nutraingredients.com, the leading food industry journal, said the rulings meant consumers could have more confidence in health claims. “It’s brought turmoil to the food industry, but it is time these claims were scrutinised,” he said.

Source: Sunday Times

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1 Comment (+add yours?)

  1. iamstacey
    Jul 20, 2009 @ 18:42:03

    Argh, you just can’t know what to trust! But even if they’re not as helpful as they say, I still think most supplements either do no harm or are helpful in some ways. But I think everyone has a unique response to different herbs and meds, and they may not work every time or for every one.

    Dang, in your previous post – 15 years, I can’t imagine. I have to admit, I think we will give up long before that. How amazing for them!

    Reply

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