EFSA health claims to spark ‘nutrition dark age’, says attorney

By Kacey Culliney

- Last updated on GMT

'EFSA regime is going to beget increased diseases,' says attorney Jonathan Emord
'EFSA regime is going to beget increased diseases,' says attorney Jonathan Emord

Related tags: Health claims, Nutrition

Europe is set to sink into a progressive nutrition dark age under the heavy hand of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) regime, says a leading food law attorney.

The EU's Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (NHCR) explicitly lists what claims manufacturers can use on pack. But US food law attorney Jonathan Emord says the heavy-handed, ‘Napoleonic’ approach the EU takes on regulating health claims - based on EFSA scientific opinions - works against the consumer.

“Over time… I think the EFSA regime is going to beget increased diseases,” ​he said.

“Sadly there will be a progressive nutrition dark age in Europe.” 

Tentative information would work

Emord said that there is a no shortage of scientific evidence for health benefits of ingredients but that an enormous disconnect exists with this reserve of academia and the consumer marketplace.

“One of the things that benefits consumers, is access to science information. Denying us access to science on a basis that it is less than perfect is damaging. If instead of the heavy hand, you had a freedom for communication with less than perfect information, consumers would begin to experiment more,”​ he said.

“And while this is less than perfect, we are still dealing with legally available ingredients remember,” ​he added.

Emord said that even with tentative scientific information, consumers should be allowed to make their own purchasing decisions. He said that if there was more of the science on pack, purchases would occur and there would be health benefits for consumers.

Heavy regulations particularly harmful in kids' cereal
Heavy regulations particularly harmful in kids' cereal

‘Dumbed down’ cereal and censorship

“Cereals marketed to children are a very good example of how censorship of health information produces the perverse effect of disabling and rendering dysfunctional that market,”​ Emord said.

“In the realm of cereal, it’s sad because you’re hurting children.”

Emord said the market has shifted towards high sugar and high salt options because of the lack of health claims on pack.

He added that if manufacturers were able to say more about health benefits associated with grains and other ingredients, there would be an "extraordinary"​ change in the marketplace.

“Unfortunately in Europe, the market is so dumbed down by the heavy hand of EFSA, you end up with a tendency on the part of cereal makers to aim at taste as the sole distinguishing characteristic, rather than health.”

US has 'a little more market freedom'

Emord said fear around use of health claims was not just apparent in Europe, but the US as well, although less so. “In the US, we have a little more market freedom and therefore more definition. There is also a greater sub-category of consumers dedicated to purchasing health-enhancing cereal.”

The attorney said that while the regulatory regime in the US under the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is not as heavy-handed as EFSA, manufacturers still operated in fear of the robust regulations.

For more in-depth analysis on the use of health claims in cereals marketed to children, click HERE​.

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Ridiculous claim by this attorney

Posted by Steve,

EFSA is trying, not always successfully, to ensure that the public gets only science-based info from food manufacturers. To imply that public health will be hurt by this elementary demand for minimal level of truth in advertising is pretty outrageous.
The phrase "Dark age" brings to mind a world ruled by superstition. That's the opposite of what EFSA works for.
Calling the EFSA "Napoleonic" is also pretty strange. But the attorney quoted has a long history of defamatory language and conspiracy speculation.
It should have been noted in this article that the attorney represents the industry being scrutinized by the EFSA.
Finally, his implication that in the US people eat more healthily than in Europe because they are free of the heavy hand of the EFSA lacks all factual basis.

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Don't buy 'breakfast in a box'!

Posted by Kimberly Hartke,

This is why I eat bacon, eggs and sourdough toast for breakfast. Boxed breakfasts are as bad as food bar lunches and 'shake' meal replacements.

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Posted by Muriel,

Spot on Mr Emord! EFSA are despots - either stupid and stubborn, or in the pockets of BIG PHARMA. They are guilty of depriving Europeans and others of natural health benefits.

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