Tuesday, 22 November 2011

Water prevents dehydration

Of course it does, we all know that. However - in yet another European scare story it appears common sense has been trumped by foreigners once again. It seem they just can't let it go can they? There always has to be some Belgium or Portuguese know-it-all telling us we're wrong.



The European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) are the people who made the ruling which was prompted by a submission from two Germans - Prof. Dr. Moritz Hagen Meyer and Prof. Dr. Andreas Hahn. The first is a lawyer specialising in food law & science and the second is a food scientist. They didn't make the submission because they're planning to launch a super-tasting extra-wet bottled water onto the market, they did it for political reasons.

In order to make a claim on a food product you have to obtain a positive opinion from EFSA. This is to stop you selling a block of second-hand chip lard and promising it'll make your feet stop smelling of cheese. obviously the food industry (in which I work) isn't too happy. This is because many companies make a lot of spurious claims about their products, and generally try and flog them through Holland & Barrett, but mainly because it takes forever to get an opinion published. Not a great situation when you're trying to rush a product to market.



The reason it takes so long is obvious, there's thousand of products in Europe and only a handful of scientists of looking at all the submissions made, digesting the information given, comparing with what's been said before and publishing an opinion. This can take years, and in the case of the submission made by our German friends it took three years. This is why they they did it, to highlight the delays this relatively new way of working causes. They also did this very cleverly as, knowing how the system works, they ensured the actual wording was technically ambiguous.

What they wanted to say is “regular consumption of significant amounts of water can reduce the risk of development of dehydration and of concomitant decrease of performance” This seems pretty standard, but it does require some back-up information in the submission and this is where the difficulties begin. The way this is worded means the panel has to treat dehydration as a disease, however within the submission the Profs stated that the risk of the disease is increased by a lack of fluid in body tissues and this could be remedied by taking in water. (Full submission can be seen here) Unfortunately water loss in tissues is defined as the "disease" and not a risk factor in causation of the disease. Hmm, that doesn't make a lot of sense.


In essence the Profs wanted to claim that not having dehydration reduces the risk of being dehydrated, they probably knew this is what they were asking too.


It really is a word game, a law question, a technicality that means our German friends couldn't get a positive claim on their submission. This is still Manna from heaven for people wanting to show how mental all Europeans are (Except our mischievous Germanic academics) you can't say drinking water stops dehydration!


Oh but of course you can. EFSA had previously assessed health claims around water in April 2011 (Lookie here) where they stated (In their legalise):



Maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions
The claimed effects are “hydration, e.g. body function, physical and cognitive performance”, “adds to fluid intake and supports hydration”, and “hydration”. The target population is assumed to be the general population. The Panel considers that maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions is a beneficial physiological effect.
Loss of body water of about 1 % is normally compensated within 24 hours. Without compensation and with further increase of body water loss, physical and cognitive functions are impaired.
The Panel concludes that a cause and effect relationship has been established between the dietary intake of water and maintenance of normal physical and cognitive functions.
The Panel considers that, in order to obtain the claimed effect, at least 2.0 L of water should be consumed per day. Such amounts can be easily consumed as part of a balanced diet. The target population is the general population.
Dehydration in a bottle
So you can claim that drinking water hydrates you, and with a clever commercial and regulatory people you can word that so it states that drinking water stops dehydration.
Of course that's not what will ever be reported - but every time you now see some overpaid, fat, racist columnist (Can you guess who it is yet?) use this as another example of the meddling Luxembourgers you'll know it's just not true and is in fact the mischievous doings of food industry insiders trying to stir up controversy.  
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