Barry Callebaut claims major breakthrough from FDA over cocoa flavanol benefits

The Barry Callebaut Group has claimed a key breakthrough and sector first in gaining a qualified health claim in the US, stating that cocoa powder may reduce risks of cardiovascular disease through cocoa flavanols, writes Neill Barston.

As the business observed, the naturally occurring phytonutrient compounds, found in a wide range of foods including vegetables and fruit, as well as chocolate, hold particularly valuable potential in terms of products focused on consumer wellbeing.

Confectionery Production has previously reported on the industry’s hopes for proving the potential that dark chocolate in particular is believed to have in terms of its flavanol content, as seen by recent studies linked to the Mars group, which had welcomed progress on determining the benefits of cocoa. However, a regulatory breakthrough had not been attained by the sector, until the latest move from Barry Callebaut.

Significantly, flavanols are considered to be especially abundant in cacao beans with the level dependent on origin, crop type and processing practices, with the US Food and Drug Administration conducting a rigorous four year study into the claims. It has now reportedly stated that it does not intend to object to a petition put forward on behalf of Barry Callebaut regarding the potential for the ingredient’s potential to reduce the risks of cardiovascular disease.

In its findings, the FDA, which has reportedly carried out a four-year review programme, said that it would not object to the health benefit statements on cardiovascular risk reduction put forward by the Swiss-headquartered company, though it concluded that there was limited scientific evidence for the claim. However, the business believed the ruling represented a major step forward in response to high demand within sports beverage and protein mix categories.

As the company revealed, it has aimed to cement itself within the better-for-you category, and has been the first  cocoa and chocolate company to receive a positive Scientific Opinion on a European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) health claim that cocoa flavanols have a positive impact on blood flow. Furthermore, the business added that since the original statement in 2012, the EFSA extended that health claim to also include cocoa powder, dark chocolate products, and cocoa extract products.

For the FDA, Barry Callebaut was able to provide similar evidence as it relates to high-flavanol cocoa powder. “We know U.S. consumers are becoming increasingly interested in how the foods they love impact both environmental and personal health,” TJ Mulvihill, VP Marketing North America at Barry Callebaut, explained.

“This is a major milestone in the development of cocoa as an ingredient, as we now know that, in combination with a balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle, consumption of cocoa flavanols in high flavanol cocoa powder may help support cardiovascular health.”

His enthusiasm was shared by Hugo Van Der Goes, Vice President Cocoa North America, Barry Callebaut.“We are honoured to be at the forefront of exploring the health and scientific benefits of cocoa. For our customers, this presents an opportunity to develop and enhance better-for-you products leveraging high-flavanol cocoa powder, especially in the sports beverage and protein mix categories, to meet consumer demand.”

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