Health claim success: Unilever receives positive EFSA opinion on tea's attention boosting potential

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27 Jun 2018 --- Unilever has received a positive opinion from the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) on the company’s evidence that black tea can improve attention. This makes Unilever the first company in the EU to receive a positive scientific opinion on a health claim for tea.

“Some initial evidence suggested that black tea could improve attention, which is the ability to concentrate on, filter and utilize incoming sensory information. So, we set out to generate the scientific evidence to confirm this,” Dr. Amelia Jarman, R&D Director and lead scientist at Unilever.

Unilever, in collaboration with external academic experts, ran three pivotal human intervention studies in which volunteers drank two to three servings of either black tea or colored and tea-flavored water on separate occasions. 

The volunteers undertook a series of tasks to measure attention before and after each serving, and were tested on both the accuracy and speed of their responses. 

Unilever reports that the results consistently showed that after drinking black tea, the attention scores were higher. One of the studies, which is proprietary, demonstrated that the stronger the tea, the higher the attention scores.

EFSA published its public opinion that “owing to its caffeine content, black tea improves attention,” on 24 May, which was followed by a 30-day period of consultation. The European Commission will now review the EFSA opinion. If the application is granted, Unilever will have exclusive rights to use this health claim for a period of five years.

“It is very valuable for us to have this official positive scientific opinion from the European Food Safety Authority. We are pleased to be one of the few companies to achieve this and we consider it a reward for our long years of extensive research in the benefits associated with drinking tea,” says Clive Gristwood, Executive Vice President R&D Foods & Refreshment at Unilever.

When contacted by NutritionInsight regarding the next steps for the company following this news, a Unilever representative noted that the company is not sharing any forward-looking details at this stage.

Unilever has several times previously vied for a health claim for black tea. Most recently, in January, EFSA rejected a health claim regarding black tea’s effects on the maintenance of normal endothelium-dependent vasodilation in adults. The application, submitted for authorization by Unilever, pertained to “black tea beverages, either freshly prepared or reconstituted from water extract powders of black tea, characterized by the content of flavanols (expressed as catechins plus theaflavins) of at least 30 mg per 200 ml serving.” 

However, in its Scientific Opinion, published on 16 January, EFSA noted that, “a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of black tea and maintenance of normal endothelium-dependent vasodilation.”

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