Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Copyright © 2004, Emerald Group Publishing Limited
Recently, I visited the Vitafoods International Exhibition in Geneva (Switzerland). It brought home to me just how much nutrition has changed over the last 20 years.
Basic foods such as fruit and vegetables, meat, fish and cereals made up the diet, with beverages of teas, coffees and a limited number of soft drinks plus water from the tap were our staple two decades ago.
Nowadays there is a vast array of new food products, many of which contain ingredients which have benefits to health. Such products are called “nutraceuticals” and include vitamins, especially antioxidants, amino acids, plant and other extracts such as those from green shell mussels, berries, grape seed and aloe vera to name but a few, fatty acids and fibres.
As can be expected nutraceuticals are more popular and have a greater market share in countries such as America, Canada, England and Europe and also in Japan where much of the initial research on products such as probiotics occurred.
The whole of the neutraceutical market is governed by innovates in ingredients, dietary supplements, functional foods and drinks as well as cosmetics where they are also used.
Scientific research on the development of new ingredients and their efficiency is fundamental to the neutraceutical market and many organisations are now offering analysis and advice on this. One of the presentations at the Vitafood Exhibition discussed health claims and regulatory bodies.
It appears that there are strict regulations on health claims – what can be used or not used in respect of food and nutraceuticals.
The whole area of which claims for different food products can be used is a controversial one. Some countries, such as some of those in the EEC, appear to have already adopted claims, even though these claims are still being discussed by the original member states. But with the additional states joining the EEC those claims which have previously been discussed by the original EEC members may well need to be adapted or even dropped, due to the deliberations of the new member states.
Other countries, such as those in the Middle East, do not allow any claims to be made, while Singapore allows claims but companies have to register their claims.
It is difficult for consumers to understand information about basic nutrition, so with varying health claims found on packs in different countries must come even more confusion.