NFPA, GMA Fault GAO Functional Foods Report

July 14, 2000

2 Min Read
NFPA, GMA Fault GAO Functional Foods Report

WASHINGTON--On July 11, the U.S. General Accounting Office (GAO) issued "Improvements Needed in Overseeing the Safety of Dietary Supplements and Functional Foods." Within 24 hours, the National Food Processors Association (NFPA) and Grocery Manufacturers of America (GMA) issued responses that found faults in the GAO's report.

The report called on Congress and the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to enact more regulations for the oversight of functional foods and dietary supplements. It recommended that the Federal Food, Drug and Cosmetic act be amended to 'require makers of functional foods to meet the same requirements that currently apply to dietary supplements' in terms of the safety and accuracy of health claims and structure-function claims on labels.

"The safety of both dietary supplements and functional foods is of paramount importance to the food industry," said NFPA executive vice president, Dr. Rhona Applebaum. "NFPA's position on all foods is that their ingredients must be safe, and any claims made concerning a food must be truthful, non-misleading and supported by sound science."

According to Applebaum, "FDA already has full enforcement authority to ensure that such claims [health and structure-function] for foods are scientifically supported and do not mislead consumers. It is important to have a national regulatory policy that does not place barriers against the availability of functional foods for consumers or make it difficult for food companies to provide consumers with information on the health benefits of certain nutrients. To do so would clearly not be in the best interest of consumers."

According to Dr. Stacey Zawel, GMA vice president, scientific and regulatory policy, "GMA believes the recommendations would unnecessarily re-regulate foods that already meet stringent federal food laws. ... The GAO apparently doesn't understand that 'functional foods' is a marketing term, not a regulatory term."

GMA was also concerned that the GAO's decision to regulate functional foods and dietary supplements together would cause more confusion. "GMA is astounded that FDA--in its reply to the GAO report--would suggest that its 'efforts to assure the safety of functional foods ... has been limited by its legislative authority'," said Zawel.

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