American Dietetic Association Calls for National Policy on Food Claims
The Food and Drug Administration (FDA) should develop a “coherent and consistent national policy” on evaluating and labeling food products, or so-called “functional foods,” that contain added ingredients that manufacturers claim enhance their products’ health benefits, according to the American Dietetic Association (ADA).
ADA representatives testified at a public hearing at the FDA’s Center for Food Safety and Applied Nutrition in College Park, MD, on how the FDA should regulate such foods, which include energy drinks and other products. ADA defines functional foods as any food or ingredient, including dietary supplements, with a health claim. ADA has developed principles for food product labeling and has published official positions on “Functional Foods” and on “Fortification and Nutritional Supplements.”
A consistent national policy on functional foods should help consumers understand the myriad food and dietary options available in today’s market, according to the association. The ADA recommends cautious evaluation of the claims made by individual food products and dietary supplements before recommending their use to promote a specific health outcome.
ADA recommends that all dietary substances be evaluated as foods with uniform rules and regulations for claims, requiring safety evaluations, premarketing approval, and sound scientific evidence in support of the claim. ADA also supports research to clarify health benefits and risks of individual functional foods and their physiologically active components.
The ADA says that the FDA can best protect consumers by following these guidelines in regulating functional foods:
–Label claims should be clear, understandable, truthful, and not misleading.
–Content on the label should help consumers make informed decisions to build a healthy diet.
–Label content should have consistent type and format so products can be read and consumers can make product comparisons.
–All claims should include labeling of accurate quantitative information about the dietary substance, including percent of Daily Values in a single serving of the product, when known, or the daily dietary intake necessary to achieve the claimed effect.
–Consumer research is imperative before making changes to the label.
–The label is only a source of information; sustained support for educational programs and individual counseling by registered dietitians is essential.
With approximately 65,000 members, the American Dietetic Association is the nation’s largest organization of food and nutrition professionals. ADA serves the public by promoting optimal nutrition, health and well being.