The GMA/FPA, the largest food industry body representing top US manufacturers, has opposed governmental regulation of functional foods.

The GMA's SVP and chief science officer Pat Verduin told the public hearing of the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) that the association sees "no value" in such a measure.

"All conventional foods and beverages are functional and have functional ingredients.  We believe there is no value in having a separate and distinct regulatory approach for some foods versus others.  Furthermore, current statutory and regulatory provisions require that ingredients used in the formulation of any food - including those that bear health, or structure-function claims - must be approved food additives, or Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS), for the intended use.  This would include any novel or unique ingredients being incorporated into foods for functional benefits," she said.

Verduin added that the food industry is committed to the use of safe ingredients and accurate communication with consumers, including the use of substantiated claims.

"In addition to this commitment by the industry, 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.'  It is important to also note that under current law, any claim used in marketing and labelling 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," she said. The most effective means of protecting consumers, in the GMA's opinion, is thus to ensure the enforcement of existing guidelines.