EU scientists agree: Chocolate can be good for you
(AP Photo/Stephan Savoia)
Published Tuesday, July 17, 2012 1:19PM EDT
Last Updated Tuesday, July 17, 2012 6:37PM EDT
The world's largest chocolate producer, Barry Callebaut, is one step closer to making health claims on its products, after the European Food Safety Authority ruled that eating just 10 grams of its dark chocolate can indeed help improve consumers' health.
In a scientific opinion released Tuesday, the EFSA said it agreed with the company's claim that eating 200 mg of cocoa flavanols (the equivalent of 2.5 grams of the Swiss chocolate maker’s high-flavanol cocoa powder or 10 grams of its high-flavanol dark chocolate) can "help maintain endothelium-dependent vasodilation which contributes to normal blood flow."
In other words, eating the right amount of the specific Callebaut chocolate in question can help improve blood flow.
The company had applied for the right to make health claims on its high-flavanol chocolate products, based on more than 20 clinical human studies it has conducted since 2005.
“It is very valuable for us to now have an official positive Scientific Opinion from the European Food Safety Authority that cocoa flavanols have a positive effect on human blood flow," Barry Callebaut CEO Juergen Steinemann said in a statement released Tuesday.
"As the first company receiving such a health claim, we see new market potential both for us and for our customers. The health claim is also a reward for our long years of extensive research in the benefits of cocoa flavanols on the human body," he said.
According to the company, it has developed a unique method of producing chocolate products that retain more flavanols -- the antioxidant, phytonutrient compounds found naturally in various fruits, vegetables and tea as well as cocoa -- than in conventional processing.
It's now up to the European Commission to sign off on the scientific opinion. If it does, Barry Callebaut would have a five-year window on exclusive rights to use the health claim on its products marketed and sold in the EU.
Because Callebaut chocolate is used in a broad range of products sold by other food companies, including Nestle and Hershey, the company expects a rush of clients eager to realize a "useful competitive advantage" by using the health claims in ads and on packaging.
"Barry Callebaut sees considerable market potential for -- among others -- applications in chocolate drinks, cereal bars and biscuits," the chocolate maker said in a statement.
Several studies in recent years, none of which were funded by chocolate-makers or related companies, have linked the consumption of chocolate to improved heart health.
Under EU rules, any nutrition or health claims in food advertising, marketing and packaging must be approved based on "substantiated" scientific evidence. That means any claim or suggestion of health benefits -- from a simple 'low fat' to more sophisticated promises of immune system strengthening, for example -- must make their way through the approval process.
EFSA scientists released a list of approximately 200 approved health claims in May, after a five-year process that saw them whittle down a list of more than 2,500 applications.