EFSA has just issued a summary report on its recent scientific colloquium on nutrient profiles, the conditions concerning the nutrient content of foods which will soon govern which foods are allowed to carry nutrition and health claims in the EU. The European Commission needs to establish a nutrient profiling system by January 2009 after consulting EFSA, whose role is to explain from a scientific point of view the pros and cons of different approaches.
EFSA’s colloquium on 11-12 October in Parma assembled around 100 experts and stakeholders from Member States, academia, consumer and public health organizations, food manufacturers and retailers. They looked at issues including whether one profile should be set for all foods or different profiles for different food categories; the choice and balance of nutrients to be taken into account in the profiling system; and the feasibility and testing of any proposed system.
Discussions pointed to the need for the final system to be simple, flexible and able to encourage food manufacturers to improve the nutritional value of foods. One approach considered was an “across the board” system (using a single nutrient profile for all foods) with a limited number of derogations or exceptions for certain foods or food categories. EFSA is reviewing the scientific basis for defining a limited set of food categories for which such exemptions could be applied by risk managers, based on their nutrient content and contribution to diet.
EFSA is also working closely with the Commission and Member States on the testing of different profiling models, providing technical support to help anticipate their effects on a range of foods on the market. To this end EFSA is currently collecting food composition data from national and commercial sources to develop an EU-wide database of nutrient contents of foods. Once risk managers have agreed on a preferred model, EFSA will test which foods it would classify as eligible or ineligible to bear health and/or nutrition claims.
EFSA’s NDA Panel is on track to provide scientific advice to the Commission on nutrient profiles by January 2008 as requested. All the issues discussed at the colloquium will be considered by the Panel before the final opinion is adopted.