EU to decide on DHA claims

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STOP PRESS: The EU Committee that met on the 6th December APPROVED the claim that DHA improves eyesight for use on follow-on milks and baby foods,   Members of the European Parliament and the European Council now have 3 months to comment. 

Please contact your local MEP and asked them to stop this claim being approved.

EU deadline for DHA, ALA and ARA claims


The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) continues to plough through the hundreds of dossiers supplied by food companies who wish to make claims on foods (see UDs 41 & 42). We focus on children’s food and formula claims which fall under Article 14 of the European Nutrition and Health Claims Regulations (1924/2006).  


EFSA has deemed the vast majority claims for formulas to be unsubstantiated - but for some unexplained reason gave a positive opinion on 4 claims that synthetic DHA/ALA contributes to brain and eye development. Since July nutrition and labelling issues have been transferred from the Food Standards Agency to the Department of Health (DH) who say that Member States (MS) will probably vote these 4 claims on 6th December. Its clear that several Member States share our concerns about the lack of evidence to support the claims, how industry will use them and the impact the claims will have on public health messages - not just in  the EU but globally. But it will be a tough call to oppose the  EU Commission which seems determined to have them approved.  The solution proposed of having guidelines on the “Conditions of Use” would only work if all foods, milk and drinks for infants and young children are excluded from claims.  If passed, follow-on milks and any food meeting the criteria will be able to carry these hugely promotional claims. Infant formula will not. This is illogical given that the DH position is that there is no health advantage in follow-on milk.


EFSA is not required to look at independently- funded research or reviews or to look at ‘risk’. This task is left to Member States and the Commission. So the fact that the Cochrane Review that found no evidence of proven benefit of DHA enriched formulas (p 15), or the 98 reports to the US Food and Drug Administration of adverse reactions, seem to have been ignored. In the US some call these formulas ‘diarrhoea formulas’ and say should carry warnings rather than claims. 


BFLG position:  If an ingredient is proven to be safe and important through an independent systematic review of research, which includes a substantial proportion of independently funded studies -  it should be mandatory in all formulas - not added as an optional ingredient to some formulas and flagged up with a claim.


Claims considered unsubstantiated by EFSA:

Claims officially rejected by MSs:

NCT briefing: Choosing formulas - what is the evidence for different milks and added ingredients:   

Sticky labels, David Payne, BMJ | 30 OCTOBER 2010 | VOLUME 341, 920-921


NEWS: New Zealand Advertising Standards Authority upheld a complaint about Wyeth advertising Lutein for eye health.  


 Go to click on the ASA news item for the ASA site and click on complaint 10/606