Cranberry players debate meaning of fresh French advice

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

ANSES says evidence not yet strong enough to back UTI health claim
ANSES says evidence not yet strong enough to back UTI health claim

Related tags: Urinary tract infection

The cranberry industry, divided over differing methods of measuring the active proanthocyanidins (PACs) content of the berries, are offering differing interpretations of new advice from the French food agency (ANSES).

The advice affirms the previous ANSES position that while the evidence backs PACs ability to prevent E coli​ from adhering to urinary tract uroepithelial cells, the evidence remains insufficient to directly correlate cranberry PACs consumption with prevention or cure of urinary tract infections (UTIs).

PACs measurement affirmation?

ANSES also spoke of PACs measurement – the issue that has so divided the cranberry industry ( to watch a video debate on this topic click here​).

“At the same time, there has been the publication of a large number of articles and publicities stating the interest of the consumption of cranberry based products for the prevention, even for the curing of urinary infections, some of them abusively referring to the opinion of AFSSA (now ANSES),”​ ANSES stated.

“Finally, the Directorate General of Consumption, Competition and Fraud Repression (DGCCRF) has specified in an internal note early 2011 which method to use to determine the content of PAC of products containing cranberry.”

Gunter Haesaerts, the owner of Pharmatoka, who lodged the initial cranberry claim application on the now €25m French market, says this affirms the BL-DMAC method over the European Pharmacopeia and other methods.

“Pharmatoka has fought and lobbied for this recognition for five years and we hope that this new opinion will contribute to establish order in the cranberry food supplement market, so that the consumers will have a range of efficacious products at their disposal,”​ he said.

“Pharmatoka also hopes that EFSA will follow suit and that we may soon have a European-wide claim validating the same principles for cranberry based food supplements”.

But David Tournay, owner of Tournay Biotechnologies and president of Euracran, a group that includes Burgundy Botanical Extracts and Diana Naturals, and which backs the European Pharmacopoeia PACs measuring method, disagreed.

“It seems that this PAC measurement issue ended with [a pevious] letter from the DGCCRF stating that operators could use the assay they wanted, provided it offered a valid measurement of PACs,” ​he said.

Insufficient data

The ANSES advice made clear why it remains to directly back cranberry and UTI reduction.

“Products containing cranberry decrease the adhesion of certain bacteria which are responsible for urinary infections on the walls of the urinary tract,”​ ANSES concluded, after “self-petitioning”​ itself to revisit in September last year the terms of the E. Coli-36mg PACs claim that became the first in the world in April 2004.

“Experimental studies demonstrate indeed that products containing cranberry (juice, nectars of juice or extracts) or the urines of persons who consumed these products, inhibit the adhesion of certain E.coli bacteria to epithelial cells of the urinary tract. This effect is linked to the presence, in the products that contain cranberry, of antioxidant substances called proanthocyanidins (PAC), responsible for the anti-adhesion effect."

“However, at present, the data, namely clinical data (follow up of patients) are insufficient to conclude that the consumption of cranberry, or of products that contain it, have a preventive effect on urinary infections.”

Its review included 10 studies published after 2004.

The initial claim was extended from juices to cranberries, frozen cranberries and cranberry puree in 2007.

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