Danone has gained approval for a health claim on Activia yoghurt in Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Office of Public Health (FOPH) has authorised Danone’s claim that its Activia products, the company’s best selling global brand, “contributes to digestive comfort, reducing transit time and swelling”.

Danone said the claim meets with criteria outlined in Swiss law, which requires the effect be proven and based on “commonly accepted scientific studies”.

Danone Dairy CEO Thomas Kunz said: “The authorisation rewards the efforts Danone has made over several years to demonstrate through high quality scientific evidence the beneficial effect of Activia and its exclusive probiotic strain.”

Danone said the authorisation, which is valid only for the Swiss market, is based on a review of “randomised, double-blind studies” supported by Danone and published in scientific journals.

It added the FOPH found, using standards close to those used by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA), that the probiotic strain used in Activia … was “sufficiently characterised and provided a recognisable health benefit in healthy adults who consumed two portions of 125g a day”.

Kunz added: “The possibility to exchange with the FOPH during the review process has been essential to understand the FOPH’s expectations. We hope to develop a similar approach with other regulatory agencies in the future.”

The submission of the health claim dossier to the Swiss authorities is separate to one being discussed as part of a process with the EFSA.

In October 2009, a number of health claims for ‘probiotic’ drinks and yoghurts were rejected by Europe’s food safety watchdog in the first of a number of assessment. Two of those included Danone’s claim that immunofortis, an ingredient added to its baby formula products, strengthens babies’ immune systems. Danone also withdrew two scientific health benefit claims for its Activia and Actimel products months later.

A spokesperson for Danone told just-food that no final conclusion on the submission of health claim authorisation to the EFSA had yet been reached due to “the absence of possibility of pre-submission meetings and possibility to have a real dialogue in the course of the evaluation procedure”.

The spokesperson, however, said that the Swiss health claim assessment process largely mirrors that used by EFSA.

“The main difference between the Swiss authorities’ procedures and EFSA’s is the possibility open for technical dialogue between applicants and the Swiss public health authorities during the evaluation process, which we consider a crucial step during the scientific evaluation.”