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EC-member states moving toward caffeine health claim consensus

By Shane Starling , 19-Nov-2012
Last updated on 28-Nov-2012 at 18:53 GMT2012-11-28T18:53:00Z

Caffeine claims may be on the way in the EU, despite strong opposition
Caffeine claims may be on the way in the EU, despite strong opposition

A European Commission working group has found growing support to authorise five mental and physical caffeine-based health claims – as long as they contain strict conditions of use statements.

The five general function, article 13.1 claims won positive opinions from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) but did not make it onto the list of 224 claims that will be validated across the European Union next month.

Member states raised concerns about their potential use, especially among products like energy drinks that are frequently consumed by children and teenagers.

Secretary of the European Coffee Federation, Roel Vaessen, told us today the UK Department of Health had reported that two clarifications had won a lot of support at the working group meeting on November 12.

“There is an emerging consolidated position to approve claims with conditions of use,” he said.

The proposed conditions of use match those mentioned in EFSA’s original opinions:

  • Endurance claims are relevant for products which deliver 3-4mg of caffeine per kilogram of body weight.
  • For cognitive claims, products would have to contain a minimum of 75mg to make claims with a warning that consumption should not exceed 300mg in one day.

Vaessen said his organisation was very much in a “wait and see” position with the claims, noting coffee products had never been sold on claims.

“Other products like energy drinks have been more claim dependent so it may be that these claims are more important to them. So while we have never needed claims, we would consider them if they became legally available.”

Children and teenagers

But groups like the European Consumers Organisation (BEUC) oppose the claims, even with condition of use statements. The BEUC is particularly concerned by their potential influence on under-18s, spokesperson Jonathan La Morte told us.

“The claims are to be targeted towards adults but we are concerned as these products will also be accessible to children and teenagers,” he said.

“We are very concerned about these claims due to the safety concerns that the Commission tries to address through the added warnings it is proposing. However, we do not believe the warning accompanying the claim is sufficient and therefore take the line that such claims should not appear on the positive list and be removed as other claims for which there were public health concerns.”

The five claims in question are:

  • caffeine helps to improve concentration
  • caffeine helps to increase alertness
  • caffeine contributes to a reduction in the rated perceived exertion/effort during endurance exercise
  • caffeine contributes to an increase in endurance performance
  • caffeine contributes to an increase in endurance performance capacity

When the claims were removed from the positive list earlier in the year for further discussion, energy drink giant Red Bull said: “Given EFSA’s positive opinion on the caffeine claims, we were surprised to learn about the delay in their adoption.”

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