But Dr Albert Bär, director of Toothfriendly International cautions that a positive response from EFSA is only one step on the way to securing the logo’s future.
“A favourable opinion from EFSA is basically like having an entrance ticket to the next round in the game,” he told NutraIngredients. “The next question is how to translate all the requirements from EFSA into claims that can be understood by consumers,” he says.
Health claims on many products must be accompanied by mandatory statements that could confuse a simple message, such as how often people need to consume a product to have a positive effect or which groups could benefit, for example.
“We will defend the Toothfriendly logo because it is well understood by consumers. It remains to be seen whether the European Commission and Member States will recognise that.”
Lost in translation
He adds that there is an extra complication with translating Toothfriendly into some languages: “It’s fine in English, German and Dutch, but the nearest we can get in Spanish or Italian is ‘Healthy Teeth’, which might be viewed as overstating the effect of the product. That discussion has not even begun.”
The latest decisions emerged from among EFSA’s fifth batch of 13.1 opinions. One of the decisions covers the use of intense sweeteners, while the other applies to bulk sweeteners.
They follow a steady trickle of positive opinions for specific dental health claims lodged variously under articles 13 and 14 by companies such as Beneo, Tate & Lyle and Roquette.
Non-cariogenic and non-erosive
EFSA initially declined to evaluate the toothfriendly claim because the dental benefits of non-cariogenic and non-erosive foods do not result from the active effect of an ingredient or component.
The authority has since got around the issue by defining the action of toothfriendly products as the “maintenance of tooth mineralisation [the positive effect required by the regulation] by decreasing tooth demineralisation“.
"Evidently, EFSA has now found a clever though somewhat twisted way to resolve this problem," says Bär.
Manufacturers, particularly confectioners and gum makers, have used the Toothfriendly seal on labels for more than 20 years
EFSA has adopted the same standards as Toothfriendly International to define which foods qualify as non-cariogenic.
The Swiss-based non-profit organization says foods should not lower the pH of dental plaque below 5.7 during consumption and for up to 30 minutes after consumption.
Moreover, foods containing acids should not expose the teeth to excessive amounts of acid (not more than 40 µmol H+ x min) during consumption.