The Danish Veterinary and Food Administration has rejected applications for 18 new cereals and cereal bars made by Kelloggs because they contain levels of vitamins and minerals that could cause Danish consumers to exceed safe levels of the nutrients in their overall diet, it said.
The products were expected to reach the Danish market this year and would be the company's first fortified cereals on this market.
But Denmark's authorities said that applications to market vitamin-enriched foods were increasing, and they needed to determine a guideline on foods to prevent consumers who eat lots of fortified products as well as supplements from exceeding safe nutrient levels.
"We evaluated the literature and reports from the European Scientific Committee on Food and tried to develop a model which would determine how much each food can be fortified before consumers will reach the upper safe levels of daily vitamin and mineral intake established by European authorities," Salka Rasmussen, senior researcher at the food authority, told NutraIngredients.com.
The products concerned, which included some new products and some already on the market but with added nutrients, are available around the world, said Chris Wermann, director of corporate affairs for Kellogg's in Europe.
"There is clearly no health risk and independent nutritionists support us on this. We don't agree with the verdict and will clearly have to have discussions with the authorities," he said, adding that Denmark is the first country to have opposed the products.
"It is a tiny market in overall business terms but it is important that we get it right," he added.
Kellogg's and other cereal and food makers would benefit from being able to roll out their ranges across Europe. This week's decision will further complicate the already diverse regulatory requirements throughout the different markets.
The European Commission proposed a community-wide regulation on addition of vitamins and minerals to foodstuffs in November last year, designed to ease this situation, but the proposal never reached its first parliamentary vote because of controversy over many of the same issues that prevented progress on the health claims regulation, including nutritional profiles.
Until this regulation is brought in, European states can ban fortified foods if they show a risk to public health.
Rasmussen said her team developed a model using recent food intake data for Denmark's population as well as new research from University College Cork scientists, published last year in the European Journal of Nutrition (April, 42(2):118-30). This study examined nutrient intake based on calorie content of foods, to take into account people with a high energy consumption.
"We adjusted this model to take into account children and people that eat a lot of calories," she said.
"The Danish population already has a high intake of calcium, iron, B6 and folic acid. This is already quite high for children. The knowledge on toxicity of vitamins and minerals is very limited and practically non-existent for children," she added.
She acknowledged that deficiency of certain nutrients does exist, "but only in small groups like immigrants who aren't getting enough vitamin D or pregnant women who need folic acid. We need to take care of all of the groups in our population."
Food authorities in one of Kellogg's biggest European markets, Britain, said they were "seeking further information from the Danish authorities", but advised people to continue eating cereals.
Rasmussen said several other countries were interested in the new Danish guidelines, including Norway and Sweden.