EU invests in plant food

August 10, 2004

Brussels, 09 Aug 2004

With food security and health at the top of the EU agenda, the Commission is funding the establishment of a pan-European network of institutions dealing with safety and health effects of phytoestrogens.

Phytoestrogens are phenolic compounds that are natural components of certain plant foods. They can be found in beans, cabbage, flax seed, rye, berries, grains and soya products (including soya milk, tofu and miso).

The Phytohealth network, which brings together partners from 12 EU countries and Switzerland, is: 'built around a cluster of three EU funded projects dealing with health effect of phytoestrogens (PHYTOS, PHYTOPREVENT and ISOHEART) and involves 44 partners among key nutrition and agro-industrial research institutes in Europe, academic institutions, leading food manufacturers and SMEs [small and medium sized enterprises],' explains the consortium.

Phytoestrogens research has expanded rapidly over the past five years with considerable resources being invested by EU countries. Thus, there is a need to extend the exchanges and collaboration to partners outside individual members states, so that the benefits of existing research can be extended to a wider audience.

The network will focus on both consumers and producers, and 'results from different investigations into phytoestrogens will be used to understand consumers' perspectives and needs.' Results will also be compiled to explore opportunities for product development from improved raw materials.

It has been widely claimed that phytoestrogens could reduce the risks of certain cancers, but the evidence remains conflicting. The Phytohealth network will therefore examine all available scientific information on this subject in a bid to have a clearer idea of the potential health benefits.

For more information about the Phytohealth network, please visit:

CORDIS RTD-NEWS / © European Communities

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