A General Accounting Office report provides insufficient evidence to justify new regulations governing so-called functional foods, according to the Grocery Manufacturers of America.

The newly released GAO report calls on Congress and the Food and Drug Administration to enact more regulations relating to oversight of functional foods and dietary supplements. Functional foods are often described as foods that may provide some type of recognized nutritional or health benefits.

“GMA believes the recommendations would unnecessarily re-regulate foods that already meet stringent federal food laws,” said Dr. Stacey Zawel, GMA Vice President, Scientific and Regulatory Policy. “Functional foods are already regulated as conventional foods. The GAO does not provide clear rationale as to why functional foods should be regulated differently.

“The GAO apparently doesn’t understand that ‘functional foods’ is a marketing term, not a regulatory term,” said Zawel.

Additionally, Zawel noted that the GAO’s misunderstanding of federal laws might be due to its decision to assess functional foods and dietary supplements together, which she said “muddies the regulatory waters.”

“Furthermore, GMA is astounded that FDA — in its reply to the GAO report — would suggest that its ‘efforts to assure the safety of functional foods … ha(s) been limited by its legislative authority.’

“As we have conveyed to both the FDA and the GAO, the food industry strongly supports the high standard that all claims be scientifically substantiated, truthful and not misleading,” said Zawel. “We believe companies have a constitutional right to make health-related information available to consumers. And the current regulatory structure allows FDA to prevent fraudulent claims and unsafe foods from being allowed in the marketplace.”

GMA is the world’s largest association of food, beverage and consumer product companies. With U.S. sales of more than $460 billion, GMA members employ more than 2.5 million workers in all 50 states. The organization applies legal, scientific and political expertise from its member companies to vital food, nutrition and public policy issues affecting the industry. Led by a board of 42 Chief Executive Officers, GMA speaks for food and consumer product manufacturers at the state, federal and international levels on legislative and regulatory issues. The association also leads efforts to increase productivity, efficiency and growth in the food, beverage and consumer products industry.