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Europe finds yoghurt health claims unproven

21 October 2010

On Tuesday, the European Food Safety Authority ruled that certain widely used claims that probiotic yoghurt products boost the immune system can no longer be used, as they have not been proven. The evidence submitted by industry was inadequate, in that it was either too general, or did not show the claimed effect.

The rulings are scientifically controversial, and further discussion and research is likely. However this underlines that it is important for manufacturers to be able to specifically prove any product claims made. Should probiotic companies therefore be forced to expressly withdraw any claim to health benefit?

This news is potentially damaging to the £200m UK industry in these products. However, given the brands’ existing positioning, the products may continue to sell well to their existing customers, even if they do not continue to expressly make these health claims. In our view, it is unlikely that the existing laws on “misleading omissions” would be enforced so rigorously as to require the manufacturers to positively disclaim particular health benefits – but only time will tell.

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