(Oct. 16, 2009) On October 1, 2009, European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) issued a scientific opinion on the health claims made by so- called probiotic products and energy drinks that contain taurine, a substance that supposedly stimulates the “mind and body,” as the company that produces Red Bull drinks claims. EFSA dismissed the claims that probiotic yogurt drinks that contain “good bacteria” improve the immune system and the overall health of consumers. It also dismissed the claims that taurine-based drinks are as effective as the company has declared them to be. (Valentina Pop, EU Food Chief Targets Bogus Claims by Yoghurt and Energy Drink Firms, EU OBSERVER, Oct. 6, 2009, available at http://euobserver.com/9/28784/?rk=1.)
At the European Union level, nutrition and health claims based on consumption of certain foods have been strictly regulated since 2006, with the adoption of Regulation (EC) No. 1924/2006 on Nutrition and Health Claims Made on Foods. (2006 OFFICIAL JOURNAL OF THE EUROPEAN UNION (L 404) 9 (Dec. 30, 2006), available at http://eur-lex.europa.eu/LexUriServ/LexUriServ.do?uri=OJ:L:2006:404:0009
EFSA was established in 2002, following a number of serious food crises that plagued Europe. It is composed of 450 employees and 1,500 independent scientific experts. EFSA's main task is to issue scientific opinions based on evaluation of evidence submitted with applications for grants of authorization for health claims. Such claims are attached to labels or used in connection with the marketing or advertising of foods. The opinions are issued by scientific panels composed of 21 experts from various EU Member States. (Nutrition and Health Claims, EFSA website, http://www.efsa.europa.eu/EFSA/efsa_locale-1178620753812_1178621456747.h
tm (last visited Oct. 14, 2009).)
The 2006 Regulation governs four types of health claims subject to scrutiny by the EFSA:
· “General function” health claims, as defined in article 13.1. Such claims are based on generally accepted scientific evidence. EFSA is currently working on a consolidated list.
· “New function” health claims, as defined under article 13.5. These claims are based on new scientific evidence and applicants for an authorization to make such claims must provide scientific evidence to substantiate the claim for a specific product.
· Claims pertaining to disease risk reduction and child development or health, as defined by article 14. Such claims must be substantiated by the applicant.
· Nutrition claims, as defined in article 8.
The Regulation also lists criteria for establishing nutrient profiles. The nutrient profiles, which are established by the European Commission and Member States, refer to nutritional requirements that food items must meet in order for the producer to make nutrition and health claims. (Id.)
The recent scientific opinion about probiotic products and energy drinks will not result in recalling the product from the market. However, this view will be taken into account by the European Commission, which will require the affected companies to discontinue making such false claims. (Id.)