“Energy bars and energy drinks are just the tip of this antioxidant-enhanced, vitamin-enriched, high-fiber iceberg,” writes Anneli Rufus in an August 3, 2010, AlterNet article examining health claims based on nutraceuticals such as “vitamins, minerals, amino acids, herbs, other botanicals, and that amorphous category known as dietary supplements.” According to Rufus, “nutraceuticals hark back to preindustrial folk remedies,” but are not yet proven to work in people. As Stephen DeFelice of the Foundation for Innovation in Medicine told her, the functional-foods industry “is all marketing, marketing, marketing without the clinical research to back it up.”

Rufus goes on to trace the history and development behind “the nutraceutical boom,” noting that consumers are again seeking “good for you” foods after a century of focusing “entirely on flavor, speed and ease.” To meet this demand, functional-food companies must walk “a tricky linguo-legislative tightrope” in marketing their products, with restrictions placed on claims linking nutraceuticals to positive conditions or touting “specific effects on specific diseases.” In addition, these claims apparently do not address what one nutritional therapist described as plant chemical “synergy,” the benefits derived not from isolated ingredients but compounds “which work together and magnify each other’s beneficial power.”

Nevertheless, suggests Rufus, nutraceuticals may retain their place in the American diet. “Whether or not they work in the ways people want them to work, nutraceuticals offer a huge, wonderful placebo effect,” DeFelice is quoted as saying. “People eat or drink these things when they’re depressed or fatigued, and they feel better. This will reduce health care costs—and nutraceuticals are relatively safe.”

About The Author


For decades, manufacturers, distributors and retailers at every link in the food chain have come to Shook, Hardy & Bacon to partner with a legal team that understands the issues they face in today's evolving food production industry. Shook attorneys work with some of the world's largest food, beverage and agribusiness companies to establish preventative measures, conduct internal audits, develop public relations strategies, and advance tort reform initiatives.

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