By: John Gleeson
Who doesn’t love reading the label of a food product? If you are like me, you start thinking “What wonderful things does this fancy new health product offer me!? Calcium? Maybe super strength?”. Them bones, them bones need calcium! Supporting bone development is one “no-brainer” health benefit of consuming calcium-containing foods. Let’s look at soy, another ingredient associated with health benefits. It can give us superpowers, right? Well depending on what country the soy-containing food is being sold in, the answer may vary. This is because each country’s regulatory agencies dictate which health claims a food product can carry. So if you’re under the Eiffel Tower in Paris, sipping on a delicious soy-based beverage produced in Europe, your beverage’s manufacturer had to play by the rules of the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA).
EFSA is responsible for approving all health claims for foods within the European Union. In the case of soy, the EFSA said “non” to health-claim petitions. But why? Well when the application was submitted petitioning for a health claim regarding soy isoflavones’ contribution to cardiovascular health, the EFSA responded saying “the claimed effect has not been sufficiently defined”1. Likewise, a previous application petitioned for the claim “25g soy protein daily maintains normal blood cholesterol concentrations”, and was assessed resulting in a similarly unfavourable outcome2. Again, the EFSA found there wasn’t sufficient scientific evidence to substantiate these health claims.
However, hopping on a plane with that delicious soy beverage (honestly don’t be cheap, buy a new one!) and taking it to another country may grant your drink a health claim! In the United States, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is responsible for approving of health claims…and they have ruled in favour of soy. If the soy-based food is low in saturated fat, cholesterol, and has 6.25g of soy protein per serving, then the label can state that it “may reduce the risk of heart disease”3.
While on your global trekking adventure, pop over to Japan where soy fall under the category of Foods for Specific Health Uses (FOSHU). FOSHU foods contain ingredients that maintain and promote health as well as ingredients that help control health conditions. As an FOSHU food ingredient, soy protein is approved for health claims related to controlling blood cholesterol levels; this is decided by the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare 4.
So although it seems so easy to associate your favourite food with a specific health claim, you now know that it may not boast the same health claim as you purchase it around the world!
1 – Efsa Panel on Dietetic Products, N., Allergies, Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to soy isoflavones and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage (ID 1286, 4245), maintenance of normal blood LDL cholesterol concentrations (ID 1135, 1704a, 3093a), reduction of vasomotor symptoms associated with menopause (ID 1654, 1704b, 2140, 3093b, 3154, 3590), maintenance of normal skin tonicity (ID 1704a), contribution to normal hair growth (ID 1704a, 4254), “cardiovascular health” (ID 3587), treatment of prostate cancer (ID 3588) and “upper respiratory tract” (ID 3589) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2011, 9, 2264-n/a.
2 – Efsa Panel on Dietetic Products, N., Allergies, Scientific Opinion on the substantiation of health claims related to soy protein and contribution to the maintenance or achievement of a normal body weight (ID 598), maintenance of normal blood cholesterol concentrations (ID 556) and protection of DNA, proteins and lipids from oxidative damage (ID 435) pursuant to Article 13(1) of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006. EFSA Journal 2010, 8, 1812-n/a.