In 2001, ILSI Europe arranged an international symposium on “Functional Foods, Scientific and Global Perspectives” to review the worldwide scientific developments and identify new trends in the area, as well as communication issues and regulatory developments. Before that the EU-sponsored concerted action project “Functional Food Science in Europe (FUFOSE)” had been finalised. FUFOSE worded a working definition implying that functional foods are foods with scientifically substantiated benefits for health and/or performance, above normal nutritional functions.

The next major EU-project was “Process for the Assessment of Scientific Support for Claims on Foods (PASSCLAIM)”, carried out 2001–2005, defined a set of criteria for the scientific substantiation of claims. These criteria are intended to provide a guidance template to inform the evaluative and legislative process. Both FUFOSE and PASSCLAIM have been widely used and cited, and these projects have thus had a considerable impact in recent years’ developments within the functional foods area.

In Europe, the Regulation (EC) on Nutrition and Health Claims made on Foods was effective by January 2007. As in most other regulations, with Japan and its “foods for specified health use, FOSHU” as a notable exception, “functional foods” is not defined as a separate category but rather in terms of health claims. Functional foods can then be regarded as food products eligible for health claims, including food supplements that are treated together with ordinary food products in the European regulation. This means that a broader category of food products than originally defined as functional foods are treated under this umbrella, which is the case also in most market analyses showing the remarkable growth potential of the functional foods sector.

With this background and the considerable developments in other parts of the world, not the least in North America and South East Asia, the present international symposium “Functional Foods in Europe––International Developments in Science and Health Claims”, held in Portomaso, Malta 9–11 May 2007, turned out to be most timely. It provided an overview of the considerable scientific developments in the area, taking place at present. It also reviewed the most recent legislations in Europe and internationally which provide the platforms for further developments. The key issue of consumer understanding and confidence was addressed thoroughly.

The scientific and legislative developments provide the basis for further developments in the interest of both consumers and producers. These developments will further drive the ongoing reformulations of existing foods as well as the development of innovative products with additional benefits for consumer health, performance and well-being.

Nils-Georg Asp, SNF Swedish Nutrition Foundation

Detlef Müller, Procter and Gamble

Carina Madsen, ILSI Europe

Stéphane Vidry, ILSI Europe


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