Groups Debate Regulating Functional Food Claims

Discussion
Dec 08, 2006

By George Anderson


A number of consumer groups are looking for the government to do a better and quicker job of evaluating the health claims made by a variety of functional food products, reports Ad Age. Right now, it is argued, the myriad claims made by products in the marketplace have resulted in a great deal of consumer confusion.


Michael Ruggio, an attorney for the American Association for Health Freedom/Alliance for Natural Health, testifying at a Food and Drug Administration hearing earlier this week, said the agency’s current system is “creating increasing legal uncertainty” and “a new regulatory framework is urgently needed.”


The Center for Science in the Public Interest (CSPI) and the Institute of Food Technologists (IFT) also spoke and said the current regulatory system often results in consumers getting less information about a product than more.


The IFT is looking for the agency to loosen its control over the claims made by marketers. Instead, it recommends companies form their own scientific panels to verify the accuracy of health claims.


Bruce Silverglade, director of legal affairs for CSPI, disagreed with the IFT approach. He said CSPI recommends the FDA approve claims made for functional foods in advance while taking any gray areas out of current regulations. In turn, CSPI is looking for the agency to more strongly enforce the current regulations.


Pat Verduin, Ph.D., senior vice president and chief science officer at the Grocery Manufacturers Association, said, “Consumers will be best served by the robust enforcement of existing provisions governing the safety of ingredients and the substantiation of claims.”


Dr. Verduin argued, “The current statutory and regulatory frameworks of the FDA and the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) provide the necessary oversight for addressing any issues related to the marketing and labeling of functional foods,” she said. “It is important to also note that under current law, any claim used in marketing and labeling must be truthful, not misleading and substantiated. If a claim is false, misleading or unsubstantiated, current FDA and FTC policy calls for appropriate sanctions to be enforced.”


Discussion Questions: Are consumers confused about the health claims made by functional foods? Does the current regulatory system efficiently and effectively
deal with health claims made by so-called functional foods?

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5 Comments on "Groups Debate Regulating Functional Food Claims"


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Bernice Hurst
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Are consumers confused? Absolutely. Do the current regulations work? They couldn’t possibly. It’s the old dyke thing (and I’m referring to the one that needs to be plugged constantly because of all its new leaks) – there are so many new products and claims and words to describe things that regulations just aren’t keeping up with them. As soon as one claim is ruled out, a new way of wording it appears. The one word that keeps ringing in my brain is disingenuous. Yes, of course, consumers are confused.

Camille P. Schuster, Ph.D.
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Depending upon the age of consumers, they are skeptical or cynical. Having the health claims verified would be important. Given the current level of manpower and the fact that some claims need to be tested over time, it is difficult to see how the process will become more speedy.

David Livingston
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Fresh fruits and vegetables good. Everything else bad. Everybody knows this. Any claims beyond this should be viewed with skepticism. Even magical buzz words like “organic” have become meaningless.

Mark Lilien
Guest
15 years 5 months ago

Food health claims are frequently bogus. Existing regulations aren’t effective, which is why the Grocery Manufacturers Association supports the current laws. Anyone watching TV can see dozens of absurd nutraceutical claims made every hour, on dozens of channels. This isn’t “confusing,” it’s lying. The FDA can do nothing until Congress changes the laws. If the nutraceutical manufacturers had to prove their claims or pay triple damages (when challenged in court) their advertising would be substantially different.

Phillip T. Straniero
Guest
Phillip T. Straniero
15 years 5 months ago

I am not sure if consumers are confused or if they are merely skeptical! I think we live in a world where people want cheeseburgers that lower their cholesterol and but they find it easier to get a prescription from their physician versus taking control of their own destiny through diet and exercise. The main problem with “functional foods” in my mind is that each manufacturer makes claims that require an unrealistic level of consumption of their product over the course of a day or week. If we could find a way to clearly label and identify foods that might work in combination to make it easier for an individual to change their eating habits and plan their meals we might be on to something. Kellogg’s early attempt to do this with their Ensemble line of food products was a good model but found it difficult to execute at retail in the current category management-driven merchandising principles.

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