Science Behind the Substantiation of Health Claims in Functional Foods: Current Regulations
In the last couple of decades, there has been a pronounced increase in consumer interest in healthier food products that contribute to reduce risk factors for chronic diseases such as hypertension, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, cancer, and neuro-degeneration, among others. The beneficial effects of functional foods containing bioactive compounds may be communicated through health claims, although this requires adequate regulatory frameworks in order to protect the consumers both from the sanitary, safety risks, and economical perspectives, and since it affects the development of innovative products in the food industry. Health claims provide useful information to the consumer concerning the health benefits of foods or food constituents, and regulatory agencies aim to protect consumers from misleading and false information. Global regulatory legislation should ensure that health claims on foods and food constituents are properly justified, and are approved after a careful scientific substantiation of the beneficial effects. This chapter describes briefly the rationale of the regulations on functional foods and the criteria applied to assess the scientific evidence required for the approval of health claims.