Leatherhead Food Research published a new white paper in June 2021 which looks at pharmafood – foods which include particular ingredients intended to have health benefits. Manufacturers of foods which make claims regarding health benefits could find themselves subject to medical regulation. The paper examines how businesses can “de-risk the product development process while creating effective pharmafood products for multiple markets”.
In summary it looks at how today’s consumers are increasingly aware of and seeking out healthier food options and ingredients that they believe to have particular health benefits so there is a growing market for pharmafood.
The report states that as well as offering opportunities pharmafood also has risks so manufacturers need to be clear whether their product is food or medicine and to be aware of the regulations regarding its production and promotional material in all target markets.
Functional ingredients – These include things like lemon balm for stress or turmeric to reduce inflammation, but manufacturers must be aware of the regulations as to their use – for example are the ingredients permissible, do they have limitations on their usage and are there regulations regarding claims as to their benefits in target markets. It’s important to validate their use and seek to provide evidence of benefits from the outset.
The most common claims are that particular pharmafoods benefit Cognitive health, Gut health, Skin health and Stress health.
The report looks at three key questions in detail that product developers should consider :
- Will the functional ingredients be permitted in target markets?
- Is the processing technology acceptable?
- Can health, nutrition or marketing claims be used on products?
It looks at the difference between Nutrition & Health claims – the report points out that there is a difference between a nutritional claim and a health claim and shows that it is generally easier to make a nutritional claim than a health claim. The report also analyses Marketing Claims, which includes terms like ‘natural’ or ‘sustainable’. These marketing claims are subject to less regulation but there are still guidelines that manufacturers must follow.
All claims must be substantiated, and product developers must analyse and substantiate all claims from the very start of the development process to avoid problems once the product reaches the market.