Hot Topics and Cool Science: What’s the difference between a food and a nutritional supplement?

Did you attend the SCIFTS Food Industry Conference?  It was a fantastic line-up of high powdered industry experts including past IFT presidents, John Ruff and Roger Clemens.  My favorite was a presentation by Mr. Justin Prochnow an attorney for Greenberg Traurig, LLP in Denver, CO.  He is an expert in food labeling law.

So — do you know the difference between a food and dietary supplement, such as Pepsi and Rock Star?

The word “Beverage” indicates a food, regulated by the FD&C Act.  “Dietary Supplement” is regulated under DSHAE.

The definition of a DS indicates the difference: “a product intended for ingestion that contains a “dietary ingredient” intended to add further nutritional value to supplement the diet.”

Several key differentiators:

  • Foods may only contain GRAS substances or “approved food ingredients”
  • If the serving size is similar to a food or replaces a regular serving of a food then it’s a food.  Example: 3 – 16oz servings is recommended per day
  • Food labels may not contain structure function claims

Several flags for FDA in policing dietary supplements mislabeled as food:

  • “Drink” and “Beverage” in the name
  • Comparison to a food on the label or in marketing
  • High amounts of Daily Value for nutrients

Other things I learned:  Manufacturing DS is EXPENSIVE, don’t choose the channel and compete with foods.  DS must meet the DS cGMPs which are costly to manage with origin and composition guarantees.  Watch your marketing CLAIMS.  If the package includes your web address then the entire website is considered your package.  Any quotes or testimonials will be considered a company statement, especially those with a disease reference.

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