EFSA Press Release, 28 July 2009
The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has completed the first comprehensive assessment of substances used as sources of vitamins and minerals in food supplements which are currently sold in the European Union. EFSA has examined 533 applications since 2005, relating to 344 different substances.
The assessments were based on scientific evidence provided by food supplement manufacturers to demonstrate the safety of these nutrient sources and the extent to which they are absorbed in the body (i.e. their bioavailability). This work was carried out by EFSA’s former Panel on additives, flavourings, processing aids and materials in contact with food (the AFC Panel) and, following its creation in July 2008, the existing Panel on additives and nutrient sources added to food (the ANS Panel). Between 2006 and 2008, the AFC Panel adopted 12 opinions and one statement covering 170 nutrient sources. Since September 2008, the ANS Panel has adopted 33 opinions and 37 statements covering the remaining 177 nutrient sources.
186 applications were withdrawn at various stages during the evaluation process, and EFSA received insufficient scientific evidence to be able to assess around half of the remaining applications. Possible safety concerns were identified in relation to 39 applications.
John-Christian Larsen, the Chair of EFSA’s Panel on additives and nutrient sources added to food (the ANS Panel), said: “Millions of people across Europe regularly take food supplements in addition to their normal diet. The work of the Panel will help to ensure that the sources of vitamins and minerals used in food supplements which are sold in the EU are safe and can effectively provide these nutrients to the body.”
“Completing this huge task in line with the challenging deadline agreed with the European Commission is an important milestone in EFSA’s work in the area of consumer protection, and represents a significant achievement for the ANS Panel in particular. I would like to thank all of the scientists involved for their hard work.”
Food supplements are concentrated sources of nutrients or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect, whose purpose is to supplement the normal diet. Examples of the substances assessed by EFSA included chromium nitrate used in food supplements as a source of chromium, and vitamin B12-enriched yeast used in supplements as a source of vitamin B12.
EU Directive 2002/46/EC specifies that only nutrient sources whose safety and bioavailability have been assessed by EFSA and listed in the relevant Annex of the Directive can continue to be used in food supplements from 1 January 2010.