Noni juice was declared safe for human consumption in the EU in 2003 by the EU Scientific Commitee on Food (SCF), but with the proviso that there were no accompanying health 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," said Dr Pat O'Mahony, chief specialist in biotechnology at the FSAI. "Our concern is that consumers may be misled by these scientifically unsubstantiated health claims in contravention of the EU labelling directive."
Noni juice generally comes from Polynesia and has only been legally available in the EU since 2003, when the SCF declared that noni juice, at the observed levels of intake, posed no harm to humans, but that there was no evidence the juice offered any benefits beyond those of other fruit juices.
According to the FSAI, a number of independent distributors have begun to procure noni juice through internet sites and to market the product in Ireland with health claims.
"Some claims we have found include 'Noni relieves diabetes and fibromyalgia' and 'Crohn's Disease meets its match - Noni'," said Dr O'Mahony. "One A4 sized sheet lists a total of 28 conditions for which thousands of people claim to have been helped by noni juice."
A spokesperson for the FSAI explained that the product seems to be being sold primarily at fairs and summer fetes.
"This appears to be a fairly widespread problem in Ireland," said the spokesperson. "Since we sent out this warning we've had lots of people phoning up local radio stations to say they've seen the product for sale with health claims."
Producers of noni juice make claims for the juice ranging from immune and digestive system support to increasing memory span and physical performance.
All new foods without 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. After passing these tests noni juice was authorised for use in pasteurised fruit drinks.