The Global Health Claim Environment was discussed last month as the University of Manitoba's Richardson Centre for Functional Foods and Nutraceuticals hosted the Health Claim Seminar.
In 2008 the Centre compared the number of approved health claims within different countries and the evidence to support those claims.
Dr. Peter Jones, a professor of food science and human nutritional sciences and the centre's director, observes there's a significantly uneven playing field when it comes to health claims.
Dr. Peter Jones-University of Manitoba
China has over eight thousand products with approved claims, Japan has over 700, the US has something like 25 different disease and structure function claims and in Canada we have only five disease risk reduction health claims which have been approved.
The countries that are more liberal are those that require less evidence in terms of the amount of material submitted to have a claim approved.
Industry gains and profits because they have better marketing strategies when they have a health claim on their product but does the consumer benefit?
Are all of those claims valid, how valid are they?
One can launch arguments of that nature at countries that are more permissive but, on the other side of the coin, are we doing ourselves a disjustice to the population in Canada by not allowing claims here in this country by perhaps creating a disadvantage to the consumer in that we're not able to inform them of important diet disease relationships on food products.
Dr. Jones suggests we need consistent international standards to ensure everyone adheres to the same requirements and we are seeing that as standards of evidence to support health claims are being harmonized in Europe while regions such as southeast Asia are assembling panels to look at the issue.