Functional foods – ones that have been modified and claim to bring health benefits – need to be "fully evaluated" to assess their long-term safety and effectiveness, scientists have warned today.
The modified foods are used by people to either supplement a healthy lifestyle or to compensate for an unhealthy one. They include yoghurts and margarines that are thought to boost the health of the stomach and/or heart.
Between January and April 2005, 200 functional foods (FF) were launched onto the market and helped to make it one of the fastest growing market areas.
Writing in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) today, scientists from the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment in the Netherlands argue that there is no evidence to suggest that FF are detrimental to people's health.
But, they add, as scientific developments increase for food and pharmacology more assessments are now possible.
These would then provide "unbiased" and "practical" information for consumers.
"A future topic for research would be to evaluate the effectiveness of adding functional foods to a traditional diet compared with altering the total diet according to dietary guidelines," they write.
"This single example suggests that we need to invest more in finding out what functional foods can contribute to individual and public health in relation to the promises made by manufacturers."