The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) has recommended that Congress grant the Food and Drug Administration the power to examine the scientific underpinnings for the functional claims that food and beverage companies make about their products.
While the GAO’s recommendations come from an advisory position, if Congress grants the FDA that power there could be wide-ranging effects on the beverage industry. Several product types in that industry, including energy drinks, relaxation drinks, recovery drinks, juice brands and functional waters and soft drinks make claims about their ingredients – called structure/function claims — that may call for significant scientific support.
Research from the GAO indicates that “consumers find it difficult to understand the differences between health claims with significant scientific agreement and the lower level of scientific support for qualified health claims.”
While the FDA currently has the power to ask a company for its scientific support, it does not have the power to force a company to reveal that support – a situation that the GAO sees as a hole in a system in which structure/function claims are used with increasing frequency.
A full text of the report is available here.