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Inception of PlantLibra, a European project that aims to ensure the safe consumption of plant food supplements

By 15 de October de 2010November 18th, 2020No Comments
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Inception of PlantLibra, a European project that aims to ensure the safe consumption of plant food supplements

The Foundation for Nutritional Research (FIN) –based at the Barcelona Science Park– is representing Spain in PlantLibra, the new European project that aims to promote the safe consumption of plant food supplements, by integrating the different scientific knowledge fields involved into a single "science of botanicals", in order to facilitate the decision-making process of European regulating bodies and food chain operators.

25 very different entities –research groups, SMEs, industries, and non-profit organizations– from 4 continents -Europe, Asia (China), Latin America (Argentina and Brazil) and Africa (South Africa)- will be participating in PlantLibra –acronym for Plant Food Supplements: Level of Intake, Benefit and Risk Assessment. The coordinator of the consortium is the Università degli Studi di Milano.

The project –co-funded by the European Commission within the 7th Framework Programme- has a duration of 4 years, and will enable the development, validation and dissemination of information and methodologies for the assessment of risks and benefits associated with the intake of these products through international cooperation, by providing toxicological and epidemiological data. The working programme has three specific objectives: the creation of a meta database with data on the intake of these products and data on the biological activity of these active substances and their contaminants; the establishment of benefit/risk models; and the dissemination of results to the sectors involved: researchers, companies, competent authorities, consumers, etc.

The Foundation for Nutritional Research –the only Spanish member of the consortium- is the leader of the working group, which aims to obtain an estimation of the intake of plant food supplements in Europe. FIN will also contribute its knowledge to the assessment of benefits and to the establishment of a methodology to assess intake in the population, thanks to its long trajectory in the study of food consumption and its wealth of experience in European projects and networks of excellence.

Botanical food supplements are becoming very relevant in the consumption habits of the European population, even though the specific intake of these types of products is yet unknown. “This market needs a comprehensive assessment of its magnitude in the European context, and also an analysis of the real benefit of the most frequently used supplements, and their safety. The consumer should be aware of where the real effects of these products end, and where their imaginary effects begin, with consumer assurance as a fundamental rule”, explains Lluís Serra-Majem, professor of Preventive Medicine, expert in Nutrition and Public Health and president of the FIN.

At present, there is no specific European legislation on botanical food supplements, or any standards that determine their classification as medications or food products. This fact presents a serious problem to the effective management of their safety and efficacy, due to the vast number of parameters to take into account in their assessment: identification, strength, quality, dose, production, packaging, etc. In face of this legal gap, the application of different national legislations causes regulation contradictions that make intracommunitary trade more difficult, promote “unloyal” competence between production and commercialisation (pharmacies and herbalist shops) sectors and generate confusion between European citizens.