International
GMO Labelling and Advertising
The Codex Committee on Food Labelling met this month and discussed two issues relevant for the dietary supplement industry: the labeling of Genetically Modified Organisms (GMO) and the definition of "advertising" in relation to nutrition and health claims.

Regarding GMO labeling, where countries are divided on whether the labeling of foods/ingredients derived from GMOs (process-based labeling) should be voluntary or mandatory, the Committee decided, in an attempt to make progress on this issue, to establish a Working Group to analyse what is possible under Codex draft standards and what is needed, and reflect on appropriate actions forward. It was agreed that the time frame to complete this work was set at 4 years and that the first Working Group meeting would take place in Ghana in early 2008.

In addition, the definition of "advertising" was amended by the Committee and will be considered for adoption at Step 5 by the Commission at its next meeting in July. The revised draft takes into account the suggestions made by IADSA about alternative wording of the text in the interests of clarity:
"'Advertising' means any commercial communication to the public, by any means other than labeling, to promote directly or indirectly, the sale or intake of a food through the use of nutrition or health claims in relation to the food and its ingredients."

Japan
MHLW's Latest Decisions on Ingredients

  • New Substances Added to the Food Additive List:
    In a recent notification from the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare (MHLW), both d and dl-alpha tocopheryl acetate are newly listed in the Food Additive Positive List. This means that both substances can now be used as food/dietary supplement ingredients in Japan.
  • Revisions to the Classification of Ingredients:
    The MHLW has recently published a notification of revisions to the classification of ingredients. Of importance to the food supplement industry, L-Citrulline is among the many substances newly classified as food use ingredients.
  • New OTC Procedure for Herbal Ingredients:
    In a recent notification, the MHLW has offered industry the opportunity of achieving OTC product approvals for herbal ingredients such as Gingko biloba, Saint John's Wort, and Saw Palmetto.

A more detailed submission procedure for these herbal products, which are currently marketed as food supplements, will be advised soon.

European Union
EFSA Panel Working on Health Claim Guidance
In order to meet national deadlines, the European food supplement industry (EHPM/ERNA) is currently working to finalise its 'master list' of health claims for submission by members to their national authorities, who in turn will submit them to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) for inclusion on the proposed central list of 'generic claims.'

To date, guidance from EFSA on the detail of what is required to substantiate a health claim has been scant. However, agenda items at the next meeting of EFSA's Scientific Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies include 'New requests for scientific opinion on: Nutrition and health Claims, Guidance for health claims applications, and nutrient profiles' and discussion on a 'Draft opinion on "Scientific and technical guidance for preparation and presentation of the application for the authorization of a health claim.'

It is understood that a comprehensive guidance document may be available by the summer of this year.

Concerns on Fish Oil Legislation
The European Federation of Association of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM) has sent a letter this month to the European Commission to raise its concerns regarding the impact of the imminent application of new EU regulation concerning the certification of fish oils for human consumption from third countries.

The supply of high quality fish oils destined to the food supplement industry comes mainly from third countries. It appears that due to the structure of the market, the number of changes and related costs necessary to comply with this regulation, the establishments in the third countries will not be able to meet the EU deadline of November 2007.

EHPM fears that if the current deadline is maintained, there is a real risk of shortage of the available sources of compliant fish oil for the industry resulting in an impossibility to continue to market popular fish oil and omega 3 supplement products.

EHPM believes that the impact of this Regulation on the food supplement sector had not been foreseen by the Commission when it was developed and urges the Commission to seriously consider the possibility to extend the transition period for fish oils for human consumption to October 2009.

Ireland
Functional Food Research Project Launched
Ireland has launched a seven-year marine functional foods research programme, with a budget of 5.2 million euros from the Marine Institute and the Department of Agriculture and Food.

Its aim is to become a leader in the global market for foods with added health benefits via the nutrients that can be sourced from the marine environment. Noel Dempsey, Minister for Marine Communications and Natural Resources, said that 'Marine functional foods and ingredients are key elements in our strategy to brand this country as the Seafood Island of Europe.'

United Kingdom
THMPD Registration Approvals Announced
Since implementation of the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive last year, the UK Medicine and Healthcare Products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) has received around 20 applications for Traditional Herbal Registrations, all for single herbal ingredient products.

Three approvals have so far been granted: for an Arnica gel and a Devil's claw product (both for muscular aches and pains) and a Feverfew product for the prevention of migraine.

In addition, there have been two registration approvals in Germany: one for a l3-ingredient tonic/digestion product based on Melissa, and one for a Hawthorn tea product, 'for support of function of heart and circulation.'

Australia & New Zealand
Australia Adopts NZ Nutrient Levels
Australia has now adopted New Zealand limits for selenium, vitamin A and niacin.

This decision, which has been welcomed by the New Zealand food supplement industry as being an important step towards the establishment of a joint Australia-New Zealand agency agreement for supplements, will mean that Australian levels for selenium will increase from 26 micrograms to 150 micrograms, niacin will be l00mg, and the level for vitamin A will be raised to 10,000 International Units.