by Marion Nestle
Mar 15 2023

FDA allows health claim for cocoa flavanols, sort of

Here’s what the FDA is doing these days.

To  my astonishment, the FDA says it will allow a health claim for cocoa flavanols and reduced risk of cardiovascular disease.

OK, it’s a qualified health claim, but still.  The whole thing is absurd.

Qualified health claims are just that; they have to include the qualifier which usually says there’s no or not much research to back up the claim.

The FDA gives several examples of what it will allow.  Here are two:

  • “Cocoa flavanols in high flavanol cocoa powder may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, although the FDA has concluded that there is very limited scientific evidence for this claim.”
  • “Very limited scientific evidence suggests that consuming cocoa flavanols in high flavanol cocoa powder, which contains at least 4% of naturally conserved cocoa flavanols, may reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease.”

The FDA also says:

This qualified health claim only applies specifically to cocoa flavanols in high flavanol cocoa powder and foods that contain high flavanol cocoa powder. The claim does not apply to regular cocoa powder, foods containing regular cocoa powder, or other food products made from cacao beans, such as chocolate.

Not that anyone can tell the difference.

This silliness came about because  of a petition from the chocolate company, Barry Callebaut AG in Switzerland.

My surprise was that Callebaut was behind the petition, not Mars.

Mars, after all, has been funding this kind of research for years (see my industry-funded study of the week from March 2022).

I can’t wait to see how Callebaut or Mars will use this claim.  I haven’t seen it anywhere yet.  Let me know if you do.