Focus: Botanicals in food supplements and antioxidant properties in Italy

Nov 23, 2020
Sébastien Bouley

“Antioxidant” properties can be attributed to 147 plant species, according to Italian guidelines on food supplements.

Plants, algae, fungi, and derived preparations (the so-called botanicals) still live quite a diversified situation on the European market landscape. Directive 2002/46/EC laid the groundwork for food supplements, but focused on vitamins and minerals. EC Regulation 1924/2006 on nutrition and health claims hasn’t fully reached its purpose concerning this category of products yet: the majority of the botanical claim requests submitted to EFSA for an evaluation remain, to this day, still pending.

Italy, which is characterized by a flourishing tradition of food supplements based on plant extracts, acted swiftly to regulate the use of botanicals, and their claims, on a national level. An Italian ministerial decree (Decreto Ministeriale) was conceived in 2012, bearing a positive list of more than 1200 allowed plants allowed plants and their conditions of use, as well as some reference guidelines on their “physiological effects”.

Over time the list of allowed plants has been updated, notably in light of the creation of the BelFrIt list. In 2018, a new decree (DM 10 agosto 2018, Disciplina dell’impiego negli integratori alimentari di sostanze e preparati vegetali) has replaced the previous one; its last revision dates to July 2019.

The guidelines on the physiological effects of botanicals mention a variety of possible actions supporting human body functions, ranging from “digestive system functionality” to “well-being and trophism of mucous membranes”. One of the possible physiological effects is, as mentioned, “antioxidant”. It can be referred to 147 species on the list. Allius sativum (garlic) bulbs, Curcuma longa (turmeric) rhizome, and Theobroma cacao (cacao tree) seeds are just some examples of plant parts that can claim antioxidant properties.

This ministerial decree helps greatly to appreciate and communicate in a responsible way the effects of plant-based food supplements.

For more information, you can consult the text of the decree – in Italian – of the Italian ministry of health (Ministero della Salute).

Orchidali can help you in the preparation and writing of regulatory files.