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December 4, 2006

FDA to Hold Hearing on "Functional" Foods

The FDA is set to hold a hearing on "funtional foods" tomorrow, December 5.  Somewhere on the continuum between Food and Dietary Supplements lie "functional foods."  There does not seem to be a universally accepted definition of functional foods, but here's what Wikipedia says:

Functional food or medicinal food is any fresh or processed food claimed to have a health-promoting and/or disease-preventing property beyond the basic nutritional function of supplying nutrients, although there is no consensus on an exact definition of the term.

This is an emerging field in food science, in which such foods are usually accompanied by health claims for marketing purposes, such as, a company's "cereal is a significant source of fiber. Studies have shown that an increased amount of fiber in one's diet can decrease the risk of certain types of cancer in individuals."

The Food and Drug Administration regulates health claims on food as part of its role in regulating the labeling of processed foods.  Health claims that refer to specific diseases are only allowed after a careful scientific review process.  But more general health claims are not regulated at all.  Examples:

Drink Snapple Rain because it "provides your body with refreshment, energy and rejuvenation."

With Tazo Lemon Green iced tea, "you may achieve a higher level of consciousness."

Arizona Black Tea with Ginseng will "help increase vitality and promote general good health."

Odwalla Wellness drink contains the herbs echinacea and astragalus and claims they have been "used for centuries to fortify the immune system."

-- Examples from Richard Clough, the Chicago Tribune, published in the Orange County Register

December 4, 2006 in Labeling | Permalink

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