Natural Foods Merchandiser

Lycopene industry seeing red for now

Lycopene, the substance that gives tomatoes their red color, was expected by at least one company to receive a boost last December from the U.S. Food and Drug Administration with a qualified health claim. Instead, the FDA said it would postpone any decision until Feb. 11.

Early last year, two different groups lobbied the FDA to allow a claim on food labels stating that consuming lycopene from tomato products may reduce the risk of prostate cancer. One group, known as the Lycopene Health Claim Coalition, comprises the H.J. Heinz Co., LycoRed Natural Products Industries, The Morning Star Co. and the Prostate Cancer Foundation.

?Our qualified health claim actually was not postponed,? said Robin Teets, a spokesman for H.J. Heinz. ?Early February [2005] was approximately the timing that we were expecting it to begin with.?

But the other petition, from supplements maker American Longevity, was initially assigned a decision date no later than Dec. 24, 2004. However, American Longevity greatly expanded its proposed list of claims—namely, that lycopene and tomatoes could also reduce the risk of gastric, colorectal, breast, cervical, endometrial, ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers.

?In recent months the agency has asked for extensions in its review of seven other pending qualified health claim petitions citing a lack of agency resources,? American Longevity noted on its Web site. ?My understanding now is that there may be some type of announcement on one or perhaps both claims in the same time frame,? said Teets.

Natural Foods Merchandiser volume XXVI/number 2/p. 7

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