Food Law News - EU - 2009


EFSA Press Release, 4 May 2009

LABELLING EFSA publishes opinion on its review of labelling reference intake values

Scientific Opinion of the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies on a request from the Commission related to the review of labelling reference intake values for selected nutritional elements- Question number: EFSA-Q-2008-772

Summary

Following a request from the European Commission, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to review and provide advice on labelling reference intakes for energy, fat, saturates (saturated fat), carbohydrate, sugars and salt that are included in a proposal for a Regulation of the European Parliament and the Council on the provision of food information to the consumer (COM(2008) 40).

The proposed labelling reference intakes for energy and nutrients are to be used to enable the nutrient content of a food product (per 100 g, per 100 ml, or per portion) to be expressed as a percentage of a typical recommended daily intake (adults). This information allows comparison of the nutritional values of food products and can help to convey the relative significance of the food as a source of energy and nutrients in the context of a total daily diet.

For practical application in nutrition labelling, a single reference intake is proposed for each nutrient using rounded values for ease of calculation.

Labelling reference intakes for total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate, sugars and salt may be derived from science-based nutrient intake recommendations for the general population that have been established by national and international authorities. For these nutrients, intake recommendations for the general population are based on evidence of relationships between intake and the risk of obesity and/or diet-related diseases (e.g. cardiovascular disease, diabetes mellitus, dental caries). The nutrient intake recommendations for the general population established by authorities in different EU countries are generally consistent (but not uniform). It is important to distinguish the labelling reference intakes for nutrients from dietary reference values established for population groups.

Because of the nature of the relationships between intake and health, the recommended intakes for total fat, saturated fat, sugars and salt represent upper limits for individuals while for carbohydrate the recommended intake is based on a lower limit. Thus the labelling reference intakes derived from these recommendations should be interpreted in this way.

In addition to its use for conveying the relative significance of the food as a source of energy, a labelling reference intake for energy also serves as a base from which to derive labelling reference intakes of energy-producing nutrients (such as total fat, saturated fat, carbohydrate and sugars) by weight from intake recommendations that are usually expressed as % energy intake (E%).

Energy

The proposed labelling reference intake for energy (8400 kJ or 2000 kcal) corresponds to the recommended energy intake for a moderately active woman. The Panel considers that a labelling reference intake for energy based on intakes of women (as compared with a higher value based on intakes of men) gives a greater emphasis to the relative significance of a food as a source of energy, total fat, saturated fat and sugars and is more consistent with dietary advice for the general population on avoiding excess intakes of energy and these nutrients.

Total fat

The proposed labelling reference intake for total fat (70 g) corresponds to 31.5 E% for a 8400 kJ (2000 kcal) diet. This value is within the range of the upper limits of intake of fat (30 35 E%) recommended for individuals in the general population in EU countries and by other authorities. It is at the lower end of the range of average total fat intakes in adults observed in EU countries (about 30 - 47 E%). The Panel considers that the proposed labelling reference intake is consistent with dietary advice for the general population on avoiding excess intakes of total fat.

Saturated fat

The proposed labelling reference intake for saturated fat (20 g) corresponds to 9 E% for a 8400 kJ (2000 kcal) diet. This value is consistent with the upper limits of intake of saturated fat (8 - 10 E%) recommended for individuals in the general population in EU countries and by other authorities. It is at the lower end of the range of average saturated fat intakes in adults in EU countries (about 9 - 18 E%). The Panel considers that the proposed labelling reference intake is consistent with dietary advice for the general population on avoiding excess intakes of saturated fat.

Carbohydrate

The proposed labelling reference intake for carbohydrate (230 g) corresponds to 46 E% for a 8400 kJ (2000 kcal) diet. This is less than the lower limits of intake of carbohydrate (generally 50 - 55 E%) recommended for individuals in the general population in EU countries and by other authorities.

The Panel proposes that the labelling reference intake for carbohydrate be 260 g (corresponding to 52 E% for a 8400kJ or 2000 kcal diet) which is within the range of lower limits of recommended intakes for individuals in the general population and close to the upper end of the range of average carbohydrate intakes in adults in EU countries. The Panel considers that a labelling reference intake of 260 g is consistent with dietary advice for the general population on ensuring adequate intake of carbohydrate.

Sugars

The proposed labelling reference intake for (total) sugars (90 g) corresponds to 18 E% for a 8400 kJ (2000 kcal) diet. The proposed value is at the lower end of the range of average intakes of total sugars in adults in EU countries (about 17 - 26 E%). Total sugars include both indigenous (sugars naturally present in foods such as fruit, vegetables, cereals and lactose in milk products) and added sugars. There are generally no recommended intakes for total sugars. Some authorities have recommended upper limits of intake of added sugars (generally 10 E%) for individuals in the general population, while others recommend that intake of added sugars, or certain foods containing added sugars, be limited but do not recommend an upper limit.

It has been estimated that indigenous sugars provided by recommended daily intakes of fruits, vegetables, cereals and dairy products would amount to about 45 g in adults. Assuming that the remaining 45 g of sugars (up to the 90 g proposed for the labelling reference intake) are added sugars, this would correspond to 9 E% for a 8400 kJ or 2000 kcal diet.

Thus the Panel considers that the proposed labelling reference intake of 90 g for (total) sugars is compatible with a recommended upper limit of intake of added sugars of 10 E% for individuals in the general population as proposed by some authorities.

Salt

The proposed labelling reference intake for salt is 6 g. This value is within the range of the upper limits of intakes of salt (generally 5-8 g) recommended in EU countries and by other authorities. It is less than the lower end of the range of average salt intakes in adults in EU countries (about 8-11 g). The Panel considers that the proposed labelling reference intake is consistent with dietary advice for the general population on avoiding excess intakes of salt.


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