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Consumer Group Takes Aim at 'Functional Foods'Aired July 18, 2000 - 2:48 p.m. ET
THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
KYRA PHILLIPS, CNN ANCHOR: The debate is growing over so-called "functional foods": foods with herbal supplements in their ingredients. The Food and Drug Administration doesn't regulate herbal supplements, so who's making sure the foods aren't dangerous and people aren't being harmed by them?
CNN's Linda Ciampa joins us with more on this controversy -- Linda.
LINDA CIAMPA, CNN MEDICAL CORRESPONDENT: Well, Kyra, you've probably seen them in your grocery store shelves: food supplemented with herbs that are supposed to make you smarter and more energetic. They're called functional foods.
But now a consumer group wants the Food and Drug Administration to take some functional foods off the market. The Center for Science in the Public Interest filed complaints today asking the FDA to halt the sale of more than 70 functional foods. The group says some of these foods contain unauthorized ingredients.
Now, a leading herbal expert says food -- herbs are drugs and they should be treated as such and not added to food.
(BEGIN VIDEO CLIP)
VARRO TYLER, HERBAL EXPERT: If the St. John's Wort is in the food in a therapeutic amount, it could certainly react with other drugs such as Cyclosporin or Endenovere (ph) or some of those that St. John's Wort has been shown to react with in therapeutic quantities.
(END VIDEO CLIP)
CIAMPA: Now, functional foods are foods with an added ingredient that are supposed to provide an extra health benefit beyond nutrition. The FDA allows companies to add ingredients proven safe to food, but herbal supplements have not been proven safe for use in food.
PHILLIPS: Now, you look at those products and you see de-stress and makes your memory better. Is there any proof that these really do work?
CIAMPA: Well, there is some evidence that -- I should say there is a whole other side to this and there is some evidence. European studies show that herbals do work in some circumstances. And there are studies going on right now at the National Institutes of Health that -- to -- trying to find whether these things really do work or not.
The problem is the research is not in as of yet and that's why -- I should say, in America, the research is not in as of yet -- all the research that your doctor and the researchers in this country want to say -- see before they say, yes, go out and buy these things and treat yourself. But there is growing evidence. And as I say, there are European studies that show that herbals do work.
And for thousands of years, herbals have been used in China and in, you know, even in this country.
PHILLIPS: Yes, I know a lot of people who swear by them.
All right, the FDA's next step: Let's talk about that again.
CIAMPA: OK, well, the FDA says that it's going to review the consumer group's complaint that was filed today. And the agency says it will continue to investigate on a case-by-case basis complaints about functional foods or dietary supplements that are brought to it's attention.
PHILLIPS: All right, Linda Ciampa, thank you very much.
CIAMPA: You're welcome.
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