The European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) signaled this week that they will be more strictly regulating product claims.
The agency reviewed more than 500 claims regarding the nutritional value or healthiness of food products – such as assertions of “Low Fat,” “High Fiber,” and “Probiotic” – and approved only one third of the claims reviewed. Not to belabor the math here, but this means that two thirds of product health claims were either false or not scientifically backed.
As the EFSA reported:
Almost half of the evaluations with unfavourable outcomes were owing to a lack of information on the substance on which the claim is based, for example ‘probiotic’ bacteria and botanical substances. Without clear identification of the substance in question, the Panel could not verify that the scientific evidence provided to EFSA related to the same substance for which the health benefits are claimed.
Europe has rules that protect consumers from false claims, or claims based on misleading or difficult to understand information. EFSA is now working through a backlog of over 4000 product health claims.
This appears to be an important step forward in leveling the playing field on what firms can claim about their products, and likely in incentivizing firms to disclose more scientific data on their products and ingredients before they make health claims.