Who Can Make Health Claims?

Doug Kaufmann
With the government considering the hiring of 4,000 to 6,000 new FDA agents, it becomes increasingly important that we, the people, not claim that certain supplements or products have medicinal properties, enable healing or cures. They don’t like us making claims that are reserved for chemical drugs. I understand that.

  What I teach has everything to do with dietary changes that help alleviate health problems. I find that most dietary information dispensed is erroneous; hence the general publics need for medication, doctor visits and drug ads that include the reference “when diet and exercise are not enough.” It is my assertion that the right diet and the right exercise program are almost always “enough.” When I feel ill I most always trace that illness back to food. Can food cure what ails others, too? Is it OK to answer that since it uses the “cure” word in the question? 
Recently, Con-Agra Foods, Inc., and the National Center for Food Safety & Technology (NCFST) got together and made some fairly bold health claims about a nutrient found in tomatoes. It is important that you know that the NCFST is actually made up of three entities; the Illinois Institute of Technology, the FDA and the food industry. Silly me, I thought the “F” in FDA meant “food” and if so, a conflict of interest might be presumed if they were in business together! Wait, it does mean food!

Tomatoes, as it turns out, have the very powerful nutrient called “lycopene” in them. Lycopene has demonstrated positive effects against prostate cancer. Lycopene is a potent antioxidant enabling the neutralization of free radicals. Further, it has been well established that this particular nutrient becomes enhanced after cooking and processing. I have wondered for years when pizza makers or tomato canners were going to start making medicinal health claims about tomatoes. I knew that health claims about any nutrient found in foods could not be made, because the FDA would prevent and punish anyone making such a claim. 
But claim they did! The NCFST just released information that tomatoes had anti-thrombotic and anti-inflammatory functions. Further, they claim that tomatoes lower the risk of certain cancers, reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, ultra-violet light induced skin damage, and even cognitive dysfunction. Talk about health claims…. how in the world are they getting away with these claims? I thought you’d never ask!
Con-Agra Foods, Inc owns Hunt’s and Hunt’s has processed canned tomatoes. Is this a coincidence or glaring conflict of interest? When is it legal to make health claims about your product(s)? Apparently, when you’re in business with the FDA. Double standards have no place in the food industry. The FDA imposes harsh punishments for those making product health claims… unless the claims are made by one of their own partners within food and drug industries. What is your take on this?
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