Wolfgang Neldner is the Managing Director of Esslingen-based Anoxymer GmbH, a company which commercialises teas, herbal mixes and plant extracts for use in the food and cosmetics industries. Here he gives the manufacturer’s viewpoint of how the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation is affecting the food industry.
Although Anoxymer GmbH focuses on B2B (business-to-business) transactions and does not deal directly with end users, i.e. consumers, the company is nevertheless affected by the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation, as it applies to all classes of commercialised foods in the European Community. The majority of the company’s clients are however based in Asia and America. “Asians and Americans have a different view of food and apply a different food-related value system,” said Wolfgang Neldner. “Asians, for example, base their knowledge on how to live long and healthy lives on experience that they have accrued over many thousands of years. We do not need a scientific dossier when we sell our products in Asia. Our Asian clients rely on traditional knowledge rather than on health claims made by food labels.” In the same way, there are ’traditional foods’ in Europe to which the regulation does not apply. The question is, which foods are considered ‘traditional’? The EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation identifies bread and milk as traditional classes of food; and the regulation therefore does not apply to these products. Does this then imply that everybody in the Western hemisphere intrinsically knows that bread and milk are healthy?
Neldner is well aware that traditional knowledge has its limits, especially on global markets. So, in principle he is quite positive about the EU Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation. “I think it is important to establish clear rules and criteria. The regulation provides a greater level of protection for consumers’ health and rights than before,” said Neldner. Although he is positive about the objectives of the regulation, he is less so about how the regulation was implemented. “The legislation is complex with many transitional measures. The EU has since published a comprehensive list of nutrition claims; but there is still a great deal of uncertainty about making a nutrition claim for food. However, there is no list yet available for health claims, which is why companies are very unsure as to what constitutes a health claim. I know of many companies that have applied to have certain health claims authorised but were turned down. Along with our industrial partners, we have decided to wait and see how the situation develops before we start developing new plant compositions for the European market.”This was not an easy decision to make as Neldner and his team had quite a few innovative ideas they would have liked to start work on. “We have put our innovations on ice for the time being and are closely monitoring the situation. The inventions are certainly there to be developed at some stage, but not if their commercialisation is dependent on EFSA assessment,” said Neldner pointing out that the company will initially target customers in Asia and America. The situation with regard to health claims on foods has since changed slightly with the recent publication by the European Food Safety Authority of health claims criteria. Anoxymer is now considering commercialising vitamin C-enriched foods. “I believe a bioactive plant extract will have even greater positive effects on health if we enrich it with vitamin C or omega-3 fatty acid,” said Neldner.
Chia, an old crop variety from South America, contains particularly high levels of omega-3 fatty acids. Neldner believes that the plant should be used more widely around the world. “The Inca have been cultivating chia in the High Andes for many hundreds of years. The benefits of chia are its nutritional value. The plant is very rich in omega-3 fatty acids and, another plus, also contains ratios of omega-3 and omega-6 that are optimal for human beings. Chia also has an abundance of minerals,” said Neldner listing the positive aspects of chia that make it an attractive product. “And there’s more, chia can also help with weight loss,” said Neldner, and he should know. “I mix a spoonful of chia seeds into my glass of apple juice every morning. This gives me the daily quantity of omega-3 fatty acids recommended by the German Nutrition Society. Chia also has the ability to soak up water. By mixing apple juice with chia seeds, you get a mixture with a gel-like consistency that expands in your stomach and leaves you feeling pleasantly full.”Thailand and Malaysia are currently the company’s largest market for chia products, but Neldner hopes that the aforementioned characteristics will make the seeds attractive for the European market. “The commercialisation of chia seeds also means that we have to take into account the Novel Foods Regulation; we would like to develop products that have a higher quantity of omega-3 and other compounds than is currently permitted in normal foods. We are thinking about using chia in biscuits and beverages,” said Neldner who purchases chia, amaranth and other crops in bio-quality only. “The way the plants are grown is extremely important to us, as it determines the quality of the plant. We also hold Fair Trade certifications for some of the plants we work with and we use these certifications as marketing instruments,” said Neldner.
Further information:Anoxymer GmbHWolfgang Neldner (Managing Director)Schelztorstr. 54-5673728 EsslingenTel.: +49 (0)711/ 90121090Fax: +49 (0)711/ 90121099E-mail: info(at)anoxymer.info