Dairy Sees Boost From Juice’s Effort to Calcify Claim

by Stephen Barlas

Milk and yogurt marketers will get a promotional boost — and some enhanced competition from fruit juices — if the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) finalizes its preliminary decision to make its calcium/osteoporosis health claim easier to use.
The FDA seems ready to eliminate some of the long-winded qualifications companies are required to use when making the claim and to allow reduced-fat, low-fat and fat-free milk and yogurts to also add vitamin D to the claim. Vitamin D helps with absorption of calcium.
Very few, if any, dairy products carry an osteoporosis health claim on their packages today because of the qualifications that must accompany it. For example, any calcium/osteoporosis claim must also note it only applies to “young adult white and Asian women who engage in regular physical activity.”
It was a petition submitted by the Beverage Institute for Health and Wellness that convinced the FDA to drop the qualifications, which were mandated when the claim was established in 1993 with nine other health claims authorized by the Nutrition Labeling and Education Act of 1990. In 1994 and early 1995, a number of food industry groups such as the National Food Processors Association petitioned the agency to relax the requirements for many of the 10 health claims, including the one for calcium/osteoporosis. The agency did propose some changes in December 1995, but they were never finalized.
The Beverage Institute is funded by the Coca-Cola Co., one of whose brands is Minute Maid fruit juices and drinks. Its petition provided the FDA with a lot of recent scientific evidence showing both that the qualifications were no longer accurate, and that vitamin D plus calcium provides a stronger defense against osteoporosis than calcium alone. In its petition, the institute said that reduced-, low- and fat free milk varieties would qualify for the new claim, as would Minute Maid and Tropicana (owned by PepsiCo) fruit drinks and Colombo, Dannon and Yoplait vitamin D-fortified yogurts.
Apart from making the case that the qualifications on the claim were no longer valid, the Beverage Institute seemed to say that milk consumption has done little to dent the prevalence of osteoporosis and that fruit drinks must come to the rescue. Its petition pointed out that consumption of milk has been declining while levels of osteoporosis have remained high.
Cary Frye, vice president of regulatory affairs for the International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), says, “It is certainly clear that the intent of the petition is to be able to make stronger claims for fortified orange juice in preventing osteoporosis, to compete with milk in that regard. But the new simpler claim will be available to all foods, and it will be up to the dairy industry to leverage its nutrient dense foods so as to market milk as the superior beverage choice.”
Tom Nagle, senior vice president of marketing for IDFA, says the Milk Processor Education Program (MilkPEP) has done recent surveys that show consumers believe milk to be the leading source of calcium. “Fortified juices have made progress in consumer perception,” he says, “but it is our intention to protect our number-one position with consumers.”  
Stephen Barlas has been a full-time freelance Washington editor for business and trade magazines since 1981.
Registration Opens for 2007 Worldwide Food Expo
Registration is now open for Worldwide Food Expo 2007, the biennial, global food and beverage technology event that brings the industry’s premier showcase of processing, packaging, equipment, ingredients and services to McCormick Place in Chicago. The show, which features IDFA’s Food, Dairy & Beverage Exposition and the AMI International Meat, Poultry & Seafood Exposition, will take place October 24 to 27. Easy online registration and complete information for the major event is now available at www.worldwidefood.com , including schedules, hotel and housing information, and a special new feature “MyExpo,” an interactive guide to help attendees get the most out of their visit to the show. Attendees are encouraged to register early for discounts and for best hotel choices. Sponsored by the American Meat Institute (AMI) and International Dairy Foods Association (IDFA), Worldwide Food Expo attracts 25,000 attendees from 100 countries, bringing together decision-makers at all levels of the food and beverage industry, including executives, plant managers, purchasing agents, engineers, researchers and operations managers. This year’s IDFA Food, Dairy & Beverage side of the show is also supported by the American Beverage Association (ABA), InterBev and Drinktec.