Tokyo is to set new guidelines for 'health' and functional foods labelling and is formulating new independent industry guidelines for clinical tests to assess the controversial foods.

Since 1991 specific legislation concerning 'foods for special health uses' (FOSHU) was adopted, which made it possible to make limited health claims, on the basis of a scientific dossier, after receiving approval from the Ministry of Health. Approved products are permitted to refer to the authorised health claim and carry a logo.

Industry insiders say that more strict scientific appraisal will be required for health foods in the near future. The new body, the Japanese CRO Association, will also reassess food ingredients that have received health ministry approval in the past.