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Food Safety Authority Warns of Unsubstantiated Claims on Noni Juice

Wednesday, 4 August 2004

The Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) today warned the public about unsubstantiated medical claims associated with noni juice imported into Ireland from certain sources. Noni juice is extracted from a fruit (Morinda citrofolia) and is a relatively new food in the EU. The FSAI was alerted by consumers about promotional materials accompanying the product from some sources which purport that the juice provides health benefits.

According to Dr Pat O’Mahony, Chief Specialist Biotechnology, FSAI, the extent of the health declarations being made in relation to noni juice from certain sources is a serious concern as there is no medical or scientific justification to support these claims.

"There is no scientific evidence available to justify claims that noni juice confers special health benefits or that it cures or prevents diseases and medical conditions. Our concern is that consumers may be misled by these scientifically unsubstantiated health claims in contravention of the EU labelling Directive. However, more importantly we fear that consumers suffering from any of the wide range of medical conditions listed in some promotional material may choose to forego conventional medical treatments in favour of noni juice. This could have extremely detrimental effects on their conditions and we strongly urge these people not to change from their normal course of medical treatment without medical advice."

"Noni juice" is the juice of the fruit of Morinda citrofolia grown in Polynesia and has only been legally available in the EU since 2003. All new foods that do not have a significant history of consumption in the EU prior to May 1997 must be subjected to a safety assessment and authorisation under the novel food Regulation before being placed on the market. In 2003, noni juice was authorised for the EU market for use in pasteurised fruit drinks (Commission Decision 2003/426/EC). In its assessment of the fruit juice in 2002, the EU Scientific Committee on Food (SCF) considered noni juice, at the observed levels of intake, as acceptable and therefore safe for human consumption. However, the SCF also stated that the data supplied and the information available provided no evidence that noni juice offered any special health benefits beyond those of other fruit juices.

"It has come to the attention of the FSAI that a number of independent distributors are procuring noni juice through internet sites and marketing this product in Ireland. Some of the advertising and promotional literature (which constitutes labelling under EU law) that is being distributed with the product from these sources makes wide ranging health claims that have no medical or scientific basis. Some claims we have found include ‘Noni relieves diabetes and fibromyalgia’ and ‘Crohn’s Disease meets its match - Noni’. One A4 sized sheet lists a total of 28 conditions for which thousands of people claim to have been helped by noni juice," continues Dr O’Mahony.

While the sale of noni juice is legal in the EU as a food, medical claims about the product are illegal. Any product that carries specific medicinal claims requires pre-market approval as a medicine. In Ireland, such approval is given by the Irish Medicines Board (IMB). The FSAI and IMB are working together to protect consumers’ interests in relation to unsubstantiated medicinal claims. However, noni juice is authorised as a food and thus it falls to the FSAI to warn the public about this problem.

The FSAI would welcome information from anyone who has purchased noni juice where health claims were made on accompanying promotional literature. Consumers can contact the FSAI advice line at 1890 336677 or 01-8171300.

* Note to the Editor

Noni Juice was authorised as a novel food in the EU in 2003 by Commission Decision 2003/426/EC: Commission Decision of 5 June 2003 authorising the placing on the market of "noni juice" (juice of the fruit of Morinda citrofolia L.) as a novel food ingredient under Regulation (EC) No 258/97 of the European Parliament and of the Council (notified under document number C (2003) 1789)

Official Journal L 144 , 12/06/2003 P. 0012 - 0012