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Companies may increasingly position functional foods as 'medical foods'

according to Stephen McNamara of US law firm Hyman, Phelps, & McNamara and a former FDA general counsel. To date, the FDA has been reluctant to accept structure/function claims on conventional foods, as illustrated by the agency's reaction to McNeil's Benecol and Lipton's Take Control margarines. McNamara noted that manufacturers can make health claims on food labels, as long as their products are formulated for special medically determined nutrient requirements that cannot be achieved by normal diet alone. The products must also be labeled 'for use under medical supervision.' This regulatory strategy may be especially appealing for foods marketed to high-population patient groups such as those with heart disease or diabetes. Medical foods could also serve as an intermediate step before promoting the product to a wider segment of the population, as in the case of Ross Products' Ensure Beverage.

Nutraceuticals International, October 1999.

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