The organic foods industry is booming: by one estimate, the market for organic foods is worth $4 billion annually and is expected to grow at a rate of more than 24% per year. Faced with the threat of pesticide exposures and other food safety problems, many consumers are turning to organic foods in hopes of finding a healthy alternative, but there is currently no consistency in organic food labeling and no guarantee that foods labeled as organic are actually grown and processed in a purely organic fashion. There is also controversy about whether the label "organic" covers such new technologies as irradiation and genetic engineering. As part of the 1990 Farm Bill, the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) is working to develop a proposed rule on organic foods. The rule would regulate the allowable methods, practices, and substances used in producing and handling crops and their processed products. The first draft of the proposed rule, released in December 1997, met with unprecedented opposition, which centered around the fact that the proposal appeared to virtually ignore the recommendations of a standards board formed to assist in the rule's development. Other criticism opposed three practices put forward for comment by the USDA: irradiation, genetic engineering, and the use of sewage sludge in farming. Due to the vehemence of the opposition to its original proposal, the USDA has decided to rewrite the proposed rule. In preparation for that proposal, the USDA Agricultural Marketing Service released three issue papers in October 1998 for public comment. The 10,000-plus comments received in response to those papers will be incorporated into the second draft proposal, due out later this year. (+info)
Inulin and oligofructose: safe intakes and legal status.
Inulin and oligofructose are a significant part of the daily diet of most of the world's population. Daily intakes for the U.S. and Europe have been estimated at up to 10 g, specifically 1-4 g for the 97th percentile in the U.S. Because both inulin and oligofructose are macroingredients, it is difficult to apply classical toxicology tests. Although some high dose animal tests have been performed, none have revealed any toxic effects. The safety of inulin and oligofructose for use in foods was evaluated by many legal authorities worldwide. As a result, both inulin and oligofructose are accepted in most countries as food ingredients that can be used without restrictions in food formulations. In the U.S., a panel of experts performed a generally accepted as safe (GRAS) Self-Affirmation Evaluation in 1992 and concluded similarly. At high doses, increased flatulence and osmotic pressure can cause intestinal discomfort. These doses vary widely from person to person and also depend on the type of food in which inulin or oligofructose is incorporated. With regard to labeling, both inulin and oligofructose are gradually being accepted as "dietary fibers" in most countries around the world. The mention of their "bifidogenic effect" on food labels has also been legally accepted in several countries. (+info)
Response of red blood cell folate to intervention: implications for folate recommendations for the prevention of neural tube defects.
Committees worldwide have set almost identical folate recommendations for the prevention of the first occurrence of neural tube defects (NTDs). We evaluate these recommendations by reviewing the results of intervention studies that examined the response of red blood cell folate to altered folate intake. Three options are suggested to achieve the extra 400 microg folic acid/d being recommended by the official committees: increased intake of folate-rich foods, dietary folic acid supplementation, and folic acid fortification of food. A significant increase in foods naturally rich in folates was shown to be a relatively ineffective means of increasing red blood cell folate status in women compared with equivalent intakes of folic acid-fortified food, presumably because the synthetic form of the vitamin is more stable and more bioavailable. Although folic acid supplements are highly effective in optimizing folate status, supplementation is not an effective strategy for the primary prevention of NTDs because of poor compliance. Thus, food fortification is seen by many as the only option likely to succeed. Mandatory folic acid fortification of grain products was introduced recently in the United States at a level projected to provide an additional mean intake of 100 microg folic acid/d, but some feel that this policy does not go far enough. A recent clinical trial predicted that the additional intake of folic acid in the United States will reduce NTDs by >20%, whereas 200 microg/d would be highly protective and is the dose also shown to be optimal in lowering plasma homocysteine, with possible benefits in preventing cardiovascular disease. Thus, an amount lower than the current target of an extra 400 microg/d may be sufficient to increase red blood cell folate to concentrations associated with the lowest risk of NTDs, but further investigation is warranted to establish the optimal amount. (+info)
Functional foods: an ecologic perspective.
A functional food is defined as any food or food ingredient that may provide a health benefit beyond that conferred by the nutrients the food contains. As nutrition scientists move into this arena, they must build on the wealth of information that already exists in plant biology. In particular, the evolutionary and physiologic bases for the production of secondary plant chemicals in plants must be considered in order to plan meaningful experiments for testing the functionality of these chemical compounds for humans. One problem that may arise is that in using the term functional food, the meaning may be lost in the continued proliferation of related terms used in product marketing. The new National Institutes of Health Office of Dietary Supplements addressed some of these issues as it developed the operating definitions described in this report. (+info)
Functional foods: the Food and Drug Administration perspective.
Because the Federal Food, Drug, and Cosmetic Act (FFDCA) does not provide a statutory definition of functional foods, the Food and Drug Administration has no authority to establish a formal regulatory category for such foods. The primary determinant of the regulatory status of a food is its intended use, which is determined largely by the label and labeling information accompanying the product. This information includes nutrient information, nutrient content claims, and various types of health claims. In marketing these foods, manufacturers may come under one of several existing regulatory options. The first decision manufacturers will make that will help determine their product's regulatory status is whether the product is a food or a drug. Thus, manufacturers and retailers have a range of legal and regulatory categories in which their products may be classified. This article describes the definitions provided in the FFDCA for a drug and a food, the safety and labeling requirements of various food categories, and types of possible claims for dietary supplements. (+info)
Soft drink "pouring rights": marketing empty calories to children.
Healthy People 2010 objectives call for meals and snacks served in schools to contribute to overall diets that meet federal dietary guidelines. Sales in schools of foods and drinks high in calories and low in nutrients undermine this health objective, as well as participation in the more nutritious, federally sponsored, school lunch programs. Competitive foods also undermine nutrition information taught in the classroom. Lucrative contracts between school districts and soft drink companies for exclusive rights to sell one brand are the latest development in the increasing commercialization of school food. These contracts, intended to elicit brand loyalty among young children who have a lifetime of purchases ahead of them, are especially questionable because they place schools in the position of "pushing" soft drink consumption. "Pouring rights" contracts deserve attention from public health professionals concerned about the nutritional quality of children's diets. (+info)
Consideration of possible legislation within existing regulatory frameworks.
Legislation on a particular food or on a particular claim to be used in connection with a food require a definition of the food and unequivocal requirements for the use of the claim. The definitions of prebiotics and probiotics presently place these terms between the categories for conventional foods and foods for special dietary uses. Because probiotics and prebiotics, as a group, do not fulfill the criteria for special dietary uses, they have to comply with the rules and laws for conventional foods even if the requirements for the use of the terms prebiotic and probiotic include effects on body functions. These effects on the health and wellness of the consumer and to stimulatory activity, eg, body defense mechanisms, can be used in claims that should underline the importance of the total dietary pattern. It is suggested that setting up rules for the use of the terms prebiotic and probiotic is preferable to creating new food standards. (+info)
Market potential for probiotics.
"Functional foods" as a marketing term was initiated in Japan in the late 1980s and is used to describe foods fortified with ingredients capable of producing health benefits. This concept is becoming increasingly popular with consumers because of a heightened awareness of the link between health, nutrition, and diet. Food manufacturers are enthusiastic about developing such products because the added ingredients give increased value to food. The global market for functional foods in the coming years is predicted to grow rapidly. Although Japan currently accounts for about one-half of this market, the fastest rate of growth is expected to be in the United States. Probiotic products represent a strong growth area within the functional foods group and intense research efforts are under way to develop dairy products into which probiotic organisms such as Lactobacillus and Bifidobacterium species are incorporated. Such probiotic foods may modulate gut microbial composition, thereby leading to improved gut health, for example, through improved tolerance to lactose in lactose-intolerant individuals or improved resistance to pathogenic bacteria. Large numbers of viable microorganisms are likely to be required in the food product, which should be consumed regularly to experience the health effect. The probiotic market, especially dairy products such as yogurts and fermented milks, has experienced rapid growth in Europe. The long-term exploitation of probiotics as health promoters is dependent on several factors, including sound, scientifically proven clinical evidence of health-promoting activity; accurate consumer information; effective marketing strategies; and, above all, a quality product that fulfills consumer expectations. (+info)