The Uncertain Future of Food and Supplements

Health care practitioners, health plan providers, and other natural therapists need to realize that consumers have become much more health conscious. They have fallen behind the major food manufacturers, who have noticed the trend and are frequently increasing their claims of health benefits simply to improve their market share. The unfortunate side effect of this underhanded marketing tactic, is that many of these claims are either misleading, unfounded or worse yet both.

This abuse of the consumers desire to eat more healthy has lead to problems for legitimate products with real, proven, nutritional benefits. This has stirred many consumer protection organizations that are campaigning the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to clean up the industry and tighten restrictions on the kind of health claims that food and supplement manufacturers can make. At the very least they have asked the FDA to protect the “unsuspecting consumer” from fraudulent health claims that are lacking “scientific support.”

But should the FDA respond to what looks like a good thing, could the momentum swing the pendulum too far in the other direction? If this should happen, we could end up with stifling rules similar to those being enforced in Europe, where even a general practitioner is forbidden to make any statements that educate their patients about nutritional benefits simply because they are “unapproved”.

Currently, only the giant drug companies can sell an FDA-approved products with a claim that it will prevent or cure a disease or health condition. All other food and dietary supplement manufacturers can only present nutritional information when they insure the consumer clearly understands that their product “may” provide those nutrients or benefits. If this criteria can be eliminated this would provide a more even playing field. Something the giant drug companies fear.

So what if the FDA and consumer groups were in agreement that food, supplements, and drugs should all be treated the same? At first glance it might seem that the food and dietary supplement manufacturers would have a serious problem. You can be sure that the big drug companies would insist that everyone be required to go through a very expensive approval process just to give us some idea of the nutritional or health benefits of their products. Those small manufacturers of food or supplement products obviously can’t afford to pay for expensive approvals just to sell inexpensive, highly competitive products.

But if we look at it more deeply, many of these benefits have already been proven. So, if these food or supplement providers are treated the same as the drug companies, they get the same privileges. Once a benefit has been proven, a variation only needs to prove it is safe to get FDA approval. This is how the drug companies generate some of their biggest profits by creating new drugs, derived from existing drugs. In that case they don’t need to prove it works they just need to imply it is safe, as long as they post any known side effects, even if those side effects can lead to death.

Using this logic, which is now in place for the drug companies, once a food or supplement proves it has some beneficial effect, it can be reused in any other food or supplement without the need for any further proof. Of course it would be much simpler to assume foods are already safe and health benefits vary in effectiveness based on quantity, quality, and food interactions, but barring that, it might be a good thing that claims made are based on actual proof. Let’s not forget that many powerful drugs are synthesized from natural sources, which proves there are benefits from that natural source in itself.

This issue is currently lacking media coverage even though it might be a significant change in your access to nutritional products or information. You need to make yourself aware of what is developing. With so little attention being paid to this issue, even on the Internet, there is a real chance of it being manipulated by the big drug companies.