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EU amends sterol/stanol health claims

By Shane Starling, 22-Jun-2010

Amended European Union plant sterols/stanols health claims will permit products such as spreads and yoghurts to make claims with a lower content of the cholesterol-lowering ingredients.

The new claims were written into the Official Journal of the European Union last month and specify that cholesterol-lowering benefits in a selection of food types can be derived when 1.5g-2.4g of plant sterols or stanols are consumed daily.

Supplements are already able to utilise a more general claim.

Previously the claims could only be utilised if products contained at least 2g of plant sterols or stanols. They were changed after a reconsideration by the European Commission of the European Food Safety Authority’s original opinions which referenced the 1.5g-2.4g range.

A summary of those opinions can be found here.

The new claims also specify that LDL cholesterol-lowering benefits of between 7-10 per cent can be attained, “in 2 to 3 weeks” if consumed daily in the form of yellow fat spreads, dairy products, mayonnaise and salad dressings.

Raisio, the owner of major stanol brand, Benecol, and pro.activ (Unilever), were not available for comment at the time of publication.

The authorised health claim states that plant stanols and sterols, “have been shown to lower/ reduce blood cholesterol. High cholesterol is a risk factor in the development of coronary heart disease”.

In the summary of its scientific opinions, EFSA’s Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) found: “…1.5 - 1.9 g and 2.0 - 2.4 g plant sterols/plant stanols per day was observed to lower blood LDL-cholesterol by an average of 8.5 % and 8.9 %, respectively. The Panel concludes that for an intake of 1.5 - 2.4 g/d an average reduction of between 7 and 10.5% can be expected. The Panel considers that such a reduction is of biological significance in terms of reduced risk of coronary heart disease.”

ALA, LA and children’s health

An amended claim has also been written into the register for alpha linolenic acid (ALA) and linoleic acid (LA) and normal growth and development of children”.

The amendment confirms labelling reference values of 2g per day for ALA and 10g for LA that have been established following advice from EFSA.

Previously the conditions of use stated: “Information to the consumer that the beneficial effect is obtained with a daily intake of 1% of total energy for linoleic acid and 0.2% of total energy for alpha-linolenic acid.”