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News / August 27, 2008

Blow for dental health as EU doubts dairy benefits

by Guy Hiscott

Ireland’s National Dairy Council (NDC) has failed to convince the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) that dairy products promote dental health in terms of the reduction of dental caries development.

Following an application from the NDC submitted pursuant to Article 14 of Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 via the Competent Authority of Ireland, the Panel on Dietetic Products, Nutrition and Allergies was asked to deliver an opinion on the scientific substantiation of a health claim related to dairy foods (milk and cheese) and dental health.

However, the Panel considered that the foods for which the claim was made were not sufficiently characterised, e.g. nutritional composition and its variability between products were not provided, and that the evidence provided by the NDC was insufficient to establish a cause-effect relationship between consumption of milk and reduction of dental caries development in children.

The Panel stated that there were ‘significant weaknesses’ in a study provided on the effect of one 5g piece of hard cheese consumed daily by children between the ages of seven and nine, which ‘limit its value as a source of data to substantiate a cause and effect relationship between the consumption of hard cheese and reduction of dental caries development in children’.

The Panel went on to state that neither this study nor another study submitted on the subject had ‘described the dietary pattern or other lifestyle factors in a comprehensive manner’.

The Panel concluded that, on the basis of the data presented, a cause and effect relationship has not been established between the consumption of milk or cheese and dental health in children.