Functional Foods – Scientific and Global Perspectives

ILSI Europe Report Series

New knowledge about the relationship between diet and health leads to new insights into the effects of food components on physiological functions and health. These insights generate interest among scientists, health care providers, and consumers, and stimulate the food industry to match consumers’ interest in short- and long-term health benefits through food products that promote health and well-being and reduce the risk of chronic diseases. These foods are called functional foods. The term functional food emerged about a decade ago in a number of countries, including Japan and the United States. Interest in functional foods was stimulated and supported by research on the physiological effects of food components and their consequent health benefits. Despite the absence of a universally accepted definition for functional foods, there is growing general agreement that some foods and beverages have beneficial effects beyond normal nutrition. The success of functional foods will depend on the interest and confidence people have in these products, and will require the accurate communication of their health benefits as well as a transparent regulatory framework for approval of the new products and their associated health claims. In 1995, ILSI organised a first international symposium on East-West Perspectives on Functional Foods, held in Singapore (SGP). Six years later, building on the results of this first event, ILSI Europe believed it was time to review the current global status of functional foods and the scientific basis for biomarkers related to the enhancement of function and the reduction of disease risk. Organised by ILSI Europe in collaboration with other ILSI entities and within the European Commission’s Fifth Framework Programme (DG Research, Thematic Programme 1 – Quality of Life and Management of Living Resources, Key Action 1 – Food, Nutrition and Health), the International Symposium on Functional Foods – Scientific and Global Perspectives took place 17–19 October 2001 in Paris (F). Discussions included the issue of human genetic variability and the safety of functional foods as well as communication requirements from a scientific, consumer, and regulatory point of view. The conference provided a future outlook on new trends in functional food science. A report summarising the main topics developed at the symposium has been published in the ILSI Europe Report Series. This report was followed by the publication of the full proceedings in the British Journal of Nutrition.

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