Nutrition

Introduction

The European Union has a comprehensive body of policies and laws in place to help ensure that Europeans have access to safe, nutritious food. A particular focus for policymakers is the need for initiatives and regulations that address the risks associated with poor nutrition, such as chronic metabolic diseases like obesity, cardiovascular diseases, stroke and type 2 diabetes. These risk management measures are based on rigorous, independent scientific assessments carried out by EFSA.

EFSA has a strictly science-based advisory function, issuing non-binding advice to risk managers (the European Commission, the European Parliament and EU Member States).

The setting of public health policies, the integration of scientific advice into legal frameworks, or the authorisation of products or health claims are risk management tasks and therefore outside EFSA’s remit.

This makes EFSA’s role different to those of most other regional or international bodies active in the area of nutrition, such as the World Health Organization or the US Food and Drug Administration, which are responsible for both risk assessment and risk management/policy setting.

The work of EFSA and its Panel on Nutrition, Novel Foods and Food Allergens (NDA) is largely dictated by the requirements of EU legislation or in response to specific requests from the European Commission. The main areas of activity are:

  • Dietary reference values, including upper tolerable intake levels of vitamins and minerals. See more.
  • The safety of novel foods (defined by EU legislation as “foods or ingredients which have not been consumed in the EU to a significant degree before 15 May 1997”) and nutrient sources (e.g. sources of vitamins and minerals). See more.
  • The safety of other substances intentionally added to food (e.g. plants and herbal extracts).
  • Scientific advice on foods for special groups, in particular infants.
  • The scientific substantiation of health claims. See more.
  • The potential of certain food ingredients to cause allergic or intolerance reactions.
  • Other generic questions related to human nutrition, such as the safety of caffeine.