By: Rupika Malhotra, MSc – Food, Scientific and Regulatory Affairs Associate
February 13, 2012
With the introduction of any new set of guidelines, regulations or changes impacting any sector of the food industry, resistance and highly aggressive responses are usually inevitable. Globally, authoritative bodies have put into place various different forms and types of regulations over the decades that have received their fair share of praises and criticisms. However, in some cases the overall industry is left wondering what the driving factor or the basis for such changes in regulations are.
Global research has brought to light several factors, some of the most obvious being advancements on several fronts such as technology leading to more research in science, nutrition, food safety, public safety, advertising and marketing ventures. One factor that is not perhaps as widely publicized, nor spoken about as often, is industry pressure. The role that major food and natural health product companies play as a whole has in the past and will continue to in the future, have a strong impact on the way regulations are up held.
Some of the most popular foods and beverages consumed presently have been a result of what seems to be industry pressure on legislative body. As highlighted by Reissig et al., 2008, “the regulation of caffeine containing beverages in the U.S. serves as an illustrative example of the complexity of the regulatory issues involved in their sale, use and promotion”.
“In 1980, citing health concerns about caffeine, the FDA proposed to eliminate caffeine from soft drinks (Food and Drug Administration, 1980). In response, soft drink manufactures justified adding caffeine to soft drinks on the basis that caffeine was a flavour enhancer (PepsiCo Inc., 1981), although the scientific basis for that claim has since been challenged (Griffiths and Vernotica, 200; Keast and Riddell, 2007). If caffeine had not been accepted as a flavour enhancer, but had been regarded as a psychoactive ingredient, soft drinks might have been regulated by the FDA as drugs. However, the FDA approved caffeine and limited the maximum caffeine content of cola-type soft drinks to 0.02% caffeine, or 71 mg/12 fluid oz (Food and Drug Adminsitration, 2003)”. (Reissig et al, 2008)
Since then, the evolution of caffeine containing beverage consumption worldwide has raised a health concern as adverse reactions and even death in some cases have occurred. Moreover, the recent announcement by Health Canada to transition caffeinated beverages to food, despite the consult of a highly accredited health panel, simply because they are being consumed as such, has raised some industry influenced theories amongst health advocates.
Recently Danone, the global probiotic leader, has expressed concerns about guidelines set to come out in the near future, that are said to impact the probiotic status and associated claims in the European Union as determined by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). This isn’t the first time that a major food corporation has brought to attention the difficulty it has faced in applying for and receiving an approved health claim in the European Union. EFSA has in the past and continues to be presently criticized for “setting the scientific bar too high”, resulting in only a limited list of approved health claims that can be used on food labels and advertising. As this is the argument from the business end, several health and regulatory advocates have defended EFSA and its assessment conditions with regards to health claims specifically, stating that the applications are the ones with the deficiencies (Starling, 2012).
Is EFSA and its highly criticized approach to approving health claims not fazed by the demands, remarks and overall pressure? Are other major authoritative bodies such as Health Canada and the FDA following in EFSA’s footsteps and placing a greater emphasis on scientific analysis? Or is this merely a step in the direction of harmonizing regulations on a global level, allowing the sales of products in several jurisdictions simultaneously?
With many changes to the food and natural health product regulations framework set to be down the pipeline, various key players that make up the food and beverage industry find themselves in a position to ask these questions.
Reissig CJ, Strain EC, Griffiths RR. Caffeinated energy drinks–a growing problem. Drug Alcohol Depend. 2009 Jan 1;99(1-3):1-10. Epub 2008 Sep 21
Starling S. Danone: “Probiotics category could disappear”. Nutraingredients.com. William Reed Business Media SAS. February 07, 2012. Accessed on: February 9, 2012. Available Online: http://www.nutraingredients.com/On-your-radar/Probiotics/Danone-Probiotics-category-could-disappear
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