Positive opinions issued by EFSA for sugar-free chewing gum and the claim that it helps to strengthen teeth and neutralise plaque acid will, no doubt, leave R&D teams in the leading gum brand owners smiling.
Last week saw the European Food Safety Authority's (EFSA) Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies (NDA) publish 442 health claim opinions, as part of its fourth batch of article 13 general function health claims under the 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).
Among that batch, the NDA found causality for the health claim that sugar-free chewing gum with fluoride increases the resistance of enamel to acid attacks and the rate of remineralisation.
The panel noted that a claim on fluoride and maintenance of tooth mineralisation has already been assessed with a favourable outcome, as well as a claim on sugar-free chewing gum and maintenance of tooth mineralisation for the general population .
The NDA considers that “the scientific substantiation of the claimed effects, and the conditions of use for the claims, also apply to sugar-free chewing gum containing fluoride.”
The general population, but gum users above the age of six, is the target of the health claim.
Fluoride is a well-characterised component, said the NDA, which is added to various food products mostly as sodium fluoride. It occurs naturally in water and foods, and is added to various dental products.
The proposed conditions of use require that an unspecified number of pellets/sticks/tabs of gum per day should deliver 0.75 mg of fluoride.
Fluoride content in gums on the market varies between 0.1 and 0.5 mg/piece.
The NDA panel also found that carbamide sugar-free gum can neutralise plaque acid when there is at least 20mg carbamide per piece and it is chewed for at least 20 minutes after eating or drinking.
In weighing the evidence, the Panel concluded that the use of sugar-free chewing gum with carbamide “consistently increased plaque pH compared to sugar-free chewing gums without carbamide, that the pH raising effect correlated positively with the urea content of the gum, and that the mechanism for the effect is well established.”
The target population ifor that claim is the general population but EFSA stresses that the use of chewing gum should be avoided in children less than three years of age because of a high choking hazard.
Late last year, responding to two disease reduction submission from gum giant Wrigley, the NDA panle found xylitol, sorbitol and mannitol-based sugar-free gum could neutralise dental plaque and reduce tooth demineralisation and that both could reduce the risk of dental caries.
This positive opinion followed an earlier endorsement by EFSA in 2008 for a claim submitted by the Dutch and Finnish group Leaf Holland that xylitol-sweetened chewing gum was beneficial to dental health. Positive article 13, generic, dental health claims also exist for sugar-free chewing gum consumed after meals.