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Articles - Issues Of Home Economics:

In April, the Judas tree is a cloud of pink blossom. You can't help noticing it, because the
Young pulmonaria flowers are bright pink. After a few days they turn violet and then vivid blue.
Hazel catkins are worth close inspection, although, if you suffer from pollen allergies, you might
Hamamelis blossom appears in winter, the flowers are delicate bunches of gold or red strands. They
Winter jasmine, as its name implies, flowers in mid-winter – not because of climate change or

Herbs such as lemon balm, St John’s wort and ginkgo, probiotic cultures or the substance monacolin K, extracted from fermented red rice – the list of natural materials and substances, which are thought to have a therapeutic effect is huge. The rules basically allow these substances to be used in foods. Quite often these or other exotic ingredients are included in a product to lend it a more healthy aura or otherwise awaken needs in consumers.

Courts arrive at contradictory verdicts

Online sites, for example, offer a large number of products, which are listed as food but which possibly ought to be classed as prescription medicine or unsafe food. This is becoming an increasing headache for the regulatory authorities. Quite often it’s left to the courts to decide case by case whether a specific product is a food or a prescription drug. The problem is that one and the same substance can produce different verdicts.

Effects are sometimes unclear

Due to a lack of scientific studies and concrete proof of efficacy, the law tends to classify a product as food even though it contains substances which have a medical use. In some cases the effects of these substance on the human body are completely unknown. Some producers base their innovative foodstuffs on indigenous peoples’ traditions or use Far Eastern medicines. As a knowledge base this is questionable. But before a food can be classified as unsafe, in a legal sense, it is also necessary to have scientific proof. A vicious circle!

Bearing all this in mind, we have at least to ask ourselves whether consumer health is being adequately protected. At the very least there should be clear criteria for the classification of innovative foodstuffs and their safety clearance. This is imperative before regulatory control can be implemented via the courts.    
In Germany, a new commission of experts from the Federal Office for Consumer Protection and Food Safety (BVL) and the Federal Institute for Drugs and Medical Devices (BfArM) has been set up clarify this issue.

New commission to clarify the issue

At the end of January 2013, six external experts from different scientific disciplines – toxicology, pharmacology, nutrition science, medicine and food-safety monitoring, were appointed to the commission. Together with representatives from the food and drug control administration and the office for risk analysis they are tasked with defining positions and a catalogue of criteria which will provide practical guidance for differentiating between foodstuffs and medical drugs. In addition, their conclusions should make safety assessments possible.

Source: Dr. Christina Rempe,