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Olympics to boost performance foods?

24 August 2012

A post-Olympic passion for sport could prompt a surge in development of 'performance-enhancing' foods and 'replenishing' sports drinks. But in their dash for the top prizes, manufacturers will have to be careful with claims, or risk seeing their products join the ranks of the also-rans.

"There are two questions that must be addressed," notes Jane Staniforth of leading UK food laboratory, Reading Scientific Services. "Is the ingredient actually present in the product at the end of shelf life in the amounts stated on labels, and does the product do whatever it claims to do?" RSSL can help to answer both questions, and to formulate products that meet criteria for consumer acceptability.

The European Food Safety Authority has a very strict burden of proof on health claims, and very few of the claim submissions made to EFSA have been approved. Claims that have been approved are largely limited to vitamins and minerals, but as many already know, adding vitamins to a product does not mean they will be present at the end of shelf life.

"Performance products have moved from specialist outlets into main-stream supermarkets," notes Jane. Most major retailers now stock products that claim to build muscle mass, provide energy, aid joint movement, replenish ions lost through perspiration, and so on. "As a laboratory with formulation, analytical and clinical trial expertise, we come at this area from every direction, and our experience suggests that the big players in the food industry are taking a serious look at this market, either in developing their own products or seeking take-over opportunities."

However, the issue of claims substantiation remains complicated. Companies now have a clearer idea of what claims EFSA will allow, and of the data needed to substantiate a claim. Some manufacturers are starting to gather more data in order to re-submit claims that have previously been denied.

"As an analytical laboratory, we are also being asked to look at equivalence, providing data to demonstrate that an ingredient or product matches the chemical profile of a different ingredient or product for which a claim has already been approved," notes Jane.

If there is to be an Olympic legacy of inspiring a generation to participate in sport, then a likely by-product will be a generation of consumers inspired to eat more healthily and with an eye on improving performance. "We expect that the food industry will want to respond with products that meet these demands, and already we are seeing signs from activity in different departments within RSSL that suggest this is happening," concludes Jane.

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