Danone will meet with EFSA in June

Danone will meet with EFSA in June

Danone has withdrawn two scientific health benefit claims for its Activia and Actimel products ahead of a meeting with the European Food Safety Agency (EFSA) in June.

The French food giant has been in a long-running dispute with the EFSA over the health claims, which only last month saw the EU reject Danone’s claim that immunofortis, an ingredient added to its baby formula products, strengthens babies' immune systems.

Speaking on Danone's first-quarter earnings conference call this morning (15 April), CFO Pierre-Andre Terisse said the decision was made after an “opportunity for dialogue” was presented with an EFSA meeting on 1 June.

“We said this year that engaging a scientific dialogue with the EFSA was appearing more and more necessary and that we didn’t want to keep working a process without a number of things being clarified,” Terisse told analysts.

“In the past weeks and days, opportunities for such dialogue have appeared and a meeting has been called by EFSA with the participation of all involved. These opportunities will progressively result in more clarification of the process and the requirements in EFSA claims."

He added: “We need more clarity and clarification, in particular on the level of requirements. This is something which is unclear to us, not only to us but to many people in the industry. 

"In the meantime, in order to leave time for this dialogue to take place, we have decided to withdraw two claims for which an opinion was expected to be made very soon, one for Activia and one for Actimel, both under Article 13.5.”

Danone will continue to adapt its communication without the claims globally as it has done in the UK and France.

However, Terisse remained confident that this will have no effect on sales of the brands.

“Our experience in these two countries have shown that the strength of our brands and quality of the more prolific communications have resulted in unchanged sales and strong or stronger top-line performance,” Terisse said.

Danone this morning said it has made a “strong” start to the year with emerging markets boosting sales growth.

For the first quarter of 2010, sales increased by 8.3% to EUR3.98bn (US$5.40bn). Excluding the effects of foreign exchange, sales rose 7% on a like-for-like basis.

Danone said all its regions delivered double-digit sales growth, except for Western Europe where sales were stable compared to the first quarter of 2009.

However, in Western Europe, virtually all countries delivered positive volume growth, with particular encouraging sales performances in France and the UK, Danone said.