Kava Kava Imports to Be Banned?
Australia is considering banning imports of kava kava ( piper methysticum) to stop its over-use in remote aboriginal settlements. Originally introduced into indigenous areas to try to combat rising levels of alcohol abuse, extract of kava kava is widely used for ceremonial and recreational purposes in Pacific islands such as Fiji, Vanatu and Tonga. Now, however, health officials have become concerned that over-use of Kava kava is the cause of weight loss, liver damage and psychiatric illness in the aboriginal population.
Double-Digit Expansion of FOSHU Market
The Japan Health Food and Nutrition Food Association (JHNFA) has published its fifth biennial market survey. The survey found the market for foods for specific health use (FOSHU) is worth Y629.9 billion (using manufacturers' recommended retail price basis) , up 11.1 per cent on 2003. Since this survey began in 1997 the market has grown considerably each year. The FOSHU market was initially fueled by gut regulation-related products, in particular the lactic acid bacteria. But from 2003 onwards this growth diminished and is now minimal. Gut regulation products have been replaced by neutral fats and products targeting body fat, cholesterol, blood pressure and teeth.
(Survey method: All companies with FOSHU approval were sent a questionnaire during November and December 2005, relating to the sales and sales routes of each product in 2005. Of the 569 approved products, replies were received for 426 products, or 74.9 per cent.)
JHNFA intends to provide appropriate information to consumers and support the activity of industry to contribute toward the expansion of this market.
Soybean Isoflavone Upper Level Unpopular with Consumers
After two years of discussion Japan's Food Safety Council has finally decided on an upper limit of 30 mg soybean isoflavone in the format of aglycone isoflavone.
This has proved to be an unpopular decision with many Japanese consumers because soybean is one of the most frequently eaten foods: one pack of tofu, for example, may contain as much as 80-90 mg isoflavone.
Food Supplement Coating Agent Approved
Following the submission of a safety dossier establishing its safety in use, the European Food Safety Authority has issued a positive opinion on the use of polyvinyl alcohol, a synthetic polymer prepared by the polymerization of vinyl acetate and widely used in the pharmaceutical industry as a coating agent for food supplements.
A New Look at Folate Intakes
Following the publication in November 2005 of its Scientific Advisory Committee on Nutrition's (SACN) draft report on folate and health, the Food Standards Agency is considering ways of increasing folate intake, including the mandatory fortification of flour with folic acid.
Among the issues under consideration are:
- An analysis of the risk and benefits of the dose of folic acid that could be recommended for fortification
- The technical and cost issues faced by millers and bakers
- Consumer attitudes to mandatory fortification, and information to facilitate informed choice.
SACN's draft report endorsed the current UK recommendation to women who may become pregnant to take 400 mcg per day of folic acid, and also recommended addressing the poor vitamin B-12 status in older adults because of concerns that high dietary intakes of folate may mask signs of vitamin B-12 deficiency, potentially leading to an irreversible neurological condition. SACN's final report is expected later this month.