Press Release - Functional foods make fools of the law
The Food Commission

Functional foods make fools of the law

Food companies that make health-boosting claims for their products may be breaking the labelling regulations, according a report by the Food Commission* published today. In a survey of over 700 'functional' foods, the Food Commission found claims such as 'helps to boost your body's immune system' (Nestlé yoghurt), 'healthier for the heart' (Heartwatch Omega white bread) and 'can help reduce excess blood cholesterol' (Ribena Juice & Fibre) despite regulations preventing foods implying that they 'are capable of preventing, treating or curing human disease'.

'We found over twenty products which appear to break the Medicines Act guidelines and the Food Labelling Regulations,' said the Food Commission's co-director, Dr Tim Lobstein. 'According to the law, a product making a health claim must have a medicines licence which the manufacturers can only get when they have proved the product really does what it claims. The phrases we found on foods appear to be breaking the law -- and we are calling for a test case to decide the matter.'

The Food Commission criticises many of the products for creating confusion about healthy eating. 'Many so-called functional foods are high in fat, sugar or salt, and yet they are implying that they are the best thing you can eat to keep healthy,' said Dr Lobstein. 'Truly functional foods are the simple, wholesome ones, like fresh fruit and vegetables, but manufacturers don't make enough money from those and would rather add a spurious 'health' image to less healthy, processed foods.'

*Functional Foods Examined, 1996

Olestra

The Food Commission is launching a campaign against official approval for the 'fat-free fat' Olestra. 'We believe the product to be anti-nutritional -- depleting the body of essential health-promoting vitamins and carotenoids -- and we do not believe it will encourage healthier diets,' said Food Commission co-director Dr Tim Lobstein. 'There have also been complaints from people trying Olestra that it 'leaks', leading to stained underwear, and that it makes the toilet oily.'

The Food Commission is calling on the government's Food Advisory Committee to reject an application by the makers of Olestra, Procter & Gamble.

Contact: The Food Commission, 0171-628 7774.
See report summary in the latest issue of The Food Magazine available from:
The Food Commission, 5/11 Worship Street, London EC2A 2BH. UK. Price £3.50.