Cargill’s erythritol dental health claim rejected by EFSA

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27 Jul 2017 --- Cargill cannot prove its EU Article 14 claim submission [disease risk reduction claim] that there is a cause-and-effect relationship between sugar-free hard confectionery with at least 90 percent erythritol and the reduction of dental plaque, according to the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).

Cargill had applied to be able to legally make a claim on its confectionery. As a rule: “health claims are prohibited unless they comply with the general and specific requirements of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006, which establishes rules governing the European Community authorization of health claims made on foods,” EFSA says.

Cargill wanted to make the following claim possible on confectionery products sweetened with erythritol: “Sugar-free hard confectionery sweetened with at least 90 percent Zerose erythritol has been shown to reduce dental plaque. High content/level of dental plaque is a risk factor in the development of caries.”

The company had therefore submitted a dossier to EFSA aiming to prove that the effect of erythritol: “could be explained by a reduction in dental plaque resulting from reduced growth and adherence of common streptococcal oral bacteria to tooth surfaces and reduced acid production by the bacteria.”

However, EFSA experts say they could not substantiate the claim “in the absence of evidence for an effect on the incidence of dental caries in vivo in humans.”

A large issue with the claim was the fact that Cargill did not specify which properties of Zerose erythritol sugar-free hard confectionery were “unique in relation to the claimed effect as compared to other sugar-free hard confectionery containing 90 percent erythritol.” EFSA experts, therefore, decided that Cargill could not make a claim unique to its product.

Problems with one of the studies that Cargill used were also pointed out by EFSA scientists: “In weighing the evidence, the Panel took into account that one human intervention study […] with some methodological limitations (e.g. data analysis for completers only) did not show an effect of sugar-free hard confectionery with at least 90 percent erythritol on the incidence of dental caries in children on either mixed or permanent dentition.”

The food constituent Zerose erythritol, the subject of the claim, “is a low molecular weight polyol that has zero calories and is non-glycaemic and non-insulinemic,” according to the EFSA report. “The erythritol is in the form of sugar-free hard confectionery sweetened with at least 90 percent Zerose erythritol.” 

Sugar-free hard confectionery is classified by EFSA as candies with a hard texture with no added sugar, and sugar-free hard confectionery includes hard candies, pastilles, lozenges, tablets and breath-freshening micro sweets. 

The full opinion of EFSA from its journal can be read here.

By Paul Creasy

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