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Articles from 2003 In March


Aloecorp Forms East Coast Distributor Partnership with Brown Chemical Company

Broomfield, CO – April 1, 2003– Aloecorp, the world’s leading vertically integrated supplier of Aloe vera raw materials, has announced a new partnership with Brown Chemical Company, Inc., a distributor of raw material ingredients to the cosmeceutical, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical industries. Brown will represent Aloecorp’s Aloe vera raw material ingredients in the Northeastern U.S.

Brown’s corporate office and cutting-edge 50,000 square foot warehouse are located in Oakland, New Jersey, and its bulk liquid packaging facility is situated in the town of Paterson. The company, a member of the Chemical Distribution Network (CDN, www.chemdisnet.com), has access to the CDN member network of more than 35 distribution centers nationwide. The CDN member companies represent more than 300 raw material suppliers and have served more than 13,000 satisfied customers in their average 45-year history.

Doug Brown, president of Brown Chemical Company (representing third generation management of the company formed by his grandfather), said, “Aloecorp’s raw material Aloe vera ingredients have been highly regarded for their efficacy and health benefits over the past fifteen years. We are delighted to represent the company’s products in key cities on the East Coast.”

“Aloecorp is honored to have our raw materials represented by a company that is respected for its integrity and loyalty to the companies it serves,” said Jeff Barrie, Aloecorp’s Eastern Regional Sales Manager. “Doug is carrying on a family legacy, and Aloecorp is thrilled to be affiliated with a company whose roots grow deep.”
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About Aloecorp

Aloecorp is a multinational company that believes in providing only the best biologically active Aloe vera raw material worldwide. That goal is largely achieved through internal cooperation and harmony, coupled with the determination to maintain innovative leadership in the industry. Aloecorp’s corporate philosophy is to “bring the best of nature to mankind.” This desire to merge the inherent quality of Aloe’s natural benefits with the scientific technology of Aloe vera is the driving force behind all aspects of Aloecorp’s business.

Since its inception in 1988, Aloecorp has been the world’s leading vertically integrated supplier of raw Aloe vera materials. All of Aloecorp’s raw Aloe vera materials have been scientifically tested for biological activity and quality and have been certified pure by the International Aloe Science Council. Aloecorp provides raw Aloe vera materials to finished goods manufacturers in the nutritional and dietary supplement, functional food, cosmeceutical, personal care and pharmaceutical industries.

Aloecorp, Active-Aloe™, and all associated logos are registered trademarks of Aloecorp in the United States and other countries. Unigen Pharmaceuticals Inc. has granted Aloecorp an exclusive licensing agreement to use its patented processes to manufacture Active-Aloe™.


Contacts for press and analysts:
Mick Anderson, President & CEO Susan Westfall, Principal
Aloecorp Westfall Communications
303-635-2200 x122 303-926-4093

Natural Health Trends Corp. Announces Record Revenues and Earnings

DALLAS--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 1, 2003--Natural Health Trends Corp. (OTCBB:NHLC) announced today record revenues and earnings for 2002.

The Company reported net sales of $39.7 million for the year ended December 31, 2002, up 60% over the prior year and net income of $4.1 million, an increase of 203% from the prior year.

Mark Woodburn, President of Natural Health Trends Corp., commented: "We are very encouraged with our results for last year. Currently with 4,628,731 common shares issued and outstanding and our last year's earnings of $4,102,020 we feel that the Company has made great strides over the past two years and we attribute our success to our management team and our dedicated distributors around the globe. In just the past year, we have stabilized our capital structure, successfully deployed our resources in expanding into foreign markets and built a solid platform to support additional growth. The direct selling industry is attracting the attention of both investors and career based individuals and we are committed to enhancing shareholder value."

About Natural Health Trends Corp.

Natural Health Trends Corp. is an international direct-selling company operating in more than 29 markets throughout Asia, North America and Eastern Europe. The Company markets premium quality personal care products under the Lexxus brand and markets its nutritional supplement products under the Kaire brand. Additional information can be found on our website at http://www.nhtc.ws, and we encourage interested parties to register for updated corporate information via e-mail on the Company's homepage.

Safe Harbor Statement

Statements in this press release that are not statements of historical or current fact constitute "forward-looking statements" within the meaning of the Private Securities Litigation Reform Act of 1995. Such forward-looking statements involve known and unknown risks, uncertainties, and other unknown factors that could cause the actual results of the Company to be materially different from the historical results or from any future results expressed or implied by such forward-looking statements. In addition to statements which explicitly describe such risks and uncertainties, readers are urged to consider statements labeled with the terms "believes," "belief," "expects," "intends," "anticipates," "will," or "plans" to be uncertain and forward-looking. The forward-looking statements contained herein are also subject generally to other risks and uncertainties that are described from time to time in the Company's reports and registration statements filed with the Securities and Exchange Commission.

Vital Living Signs Agreement to Acquire Christopher's Original Formulas; Company Positioned for Growth in the Dietary Supplement Industry

PHOENIX--April 1, 2003--Vital Living Inc. (OTCBB: VTLV), the Physician Nutraceutical Company(SM) today announced that it has entered into an agreement to acquire Christopher's Original Formulas ("Christopher's"), based in Springville, Utah.

Christopher's distributes their products to traditional distributors who in turn sell to the Retail Health Food Stores, health care practitioners and consumers.

Vital Living and Christopher's have committed to maintain the integrity of the original formulations that have been used by the public for over 40 years.

The acquisition will be effectuated pursuant to the terms of a definitive agreement containing appropriate representations and warranties from Vital Living and Christopher's. Vital Living contemplates that the acquisition will be structured as a merger of Christopher's into a wholly owned subsidiary of Vital Living and that the transaction shall be accounted for as a purchase.

The purchase price shall be in the form of common stock of Vital Living. Upon consummation of the acquisition, Vital Living shall issue 2,600,000 shares of common stock to Christopher's. Christopher's will have the right to receive bonus shares over the twenty-four month period following the closing, totaling a maximum of 650,000 additional shares. These bonus shares will be earned based upon determined sales and earnings targets being met. All stock will be non-registered and subject to Rule 144.

Management of Christopher's projects the next twelve-month period to have gross sales in excess of $4 million with EBITDA of $1 million. Audited financials of 2001 show revenue in excess of $3 million. The 2002 audits are still being completed, and are a requirement of closing.

According to Stuart Benson, Vice Chairman of Vital Living, "This acquisition will position Vital Living for exponential growth in the Dietary Supplement Industry. Christopher's has built an excellent reputation, since 1945, when John R. Christopher, M.H. started formulating safe and effective herbal combinations for his patients. Dr. Christopher, as his patients fondly called him, would harvest fresh herbs in the early mornings and prepare them to be made into the formulas his patients needed to become healthy."

Robert Scott, President of Christopher's Original Formulas, stated, "We are very excited about the prospect of working with Vital Living. Our two companies have certain synergies that will help us advance in the distribution of our products in the Dietary Supplement Industry."

Mr. Scott continued, "John R Christopher's philosophy consisted of cleansing, nourishing and creating the environment so that the body could heal itself. He believed that all body systems should be free flowing and that disease begins when the body was clogged up in different areas. When the body is cleansed, the body can maximize the utilization process, and receive the necessary nutrients from whole foods. The healing process can then take place naturally when the body is first prepared properly. Christopher's famous quote is 'that there are no incurable diseases, there are only incurable people'."

About Vital Living

Vital Living develops and markets evidence-based nutraceuticals formulated by physicians for distribution through physicians. The Company is developing and testing nutraceuticals in collaboration with leading medical experts based on the best available scientific evidence.

Vital Living's nutraceuticals are designed to be incorporated by physicians into a standard physician/patient program, supported by a specially designed compliance regimen. The Company's initial area of focus is cardiovascular health, the leading health concern in America affecting 60 million consumers. Essentum(TM) is currently being endorsed and prescribed at the Arizona Heart Institute as part of a comprehensive cardiovascular health program. Its cardiovascular health supplement products are also prescribed for patients in Canyon Ranch Health Resort's leading Wellness and Prevention programs in Tucson, AZ.

Except for any historical information, the matters discussed in this press release contain forward-looking statements within the meaning of Section 27A of the Securities Act of 1933 and Section 21E of the Securities Exchange Act of 1934. These forward-looking statements involve risks and uncertainties, including activities, events or developments that the company expects, believes or anticipates will or may occur in the future. A number of factors could cause actual results to differ from those indicated in the forward-looking statements, including the company's ability to continue to successfully market and provide its products and services and maintain their effectiveness, the continuation of the arrangements with the company's product development partners, the ability of the company to meet its financial projections, and general economic conditions. Such statements are subject to a number of assumptions, risks and uncertainties. Readers are cautioned that such statements are not guarantees of future performance and that actual results or developments may differ materially from those set forth in the forward-looking statements. The company undertakes no obligation to publicly update or revise forward-looking statements, whether as a result of new information or otherwise.

Nutrihealth USA LLC acquires Team Pro 2

GOLDEN, Colo.--(BUSINESS WIRE)--April 1, 2003--Jim Warren, best known as the man who trained baseball supremo Barry Bonds and superbowl MVP Dexter Jackson, today announced he was selling Team Pro 2, the sports nutrition company he founded.

Nutrihealth USA, a Golden Colorado-based wellness company, has acquired Team Pro 2, also of Golden. Nutrihealth, the Beta Science Company, is best known for its use of beta sitosterol throughout its extensive line of general nutritionals.

Team Pro 2 was begun in 1998 with backing from athletes Jim Warren had trained: Trevor Pryce of the Broncos, Jerome "the Bus" Bettis, baseball player Scott Servais and pro triathlete Wes Hobson. Team Pro 2 developed a loyal following for its high-altitude endurance and recovery products in the Rocky Mountain region.

Team Pro 2 founder Jim Warren had been searching for a strategic partner to take Team Pro 2 to the general public. Warren has trained over 200 NFL athletes during his training career.

"We first sold Team Pro 2 formulations to pro athletes, then extended sales to weekend warriors. My passion is to reach a wider audience for supplements," said Warren.

Nutrihealth USA has named Warren Chief Executive Officer with immediate effect. He will be in charge of overall strategy and head of sales in North America.

Nutrihealth USA is a cutting-edge, web-based, referral-marketing company currently selling wellness and family nutritionals in 60 countries. Nutrihealth had been searching for 12 months for a sports nutrition company to complement its family nutrition range.

"We will begin rolling out Team Pro 2's endurance, recovery and protein products across America through our networks," said Al Alletzhauser, Nutrihealth Global CEO. He added that Nutrihealth and Nutrihealth/Team Pro2 products will not be available in stores, but only through company-authorized distributors. All phone and web orders of the two companies will be shipped through Nutrihealth's Golden, Colorado logistics facility.

Jim Warren may be reached for follow-up and/or interviews at 303/271-0070. For an accompanying photograph of Jim, please contact Shannon on 303/271-0070.

Unigen Pharmaceuticals Enters Anti-Cancer Drug Collaboration Agreement With 21st Century Therapeutics

Broomfield, CO – April 1, 2003 – Unigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc., a leading research and development facility and supplier of proprietary plant-derived biologically active ingredients to the natural products and pharmaceutical industries, has announced a collaboration agreement with Michigan-based biotech company 21st Century Therapeutics, Inc. for the discovery, development and commercialization of novel anti-cancer drugs targeted against human solid tumors, including colon, lung, breast and prostate cancer.

As part of the agreement, Unigen will supply 21st Century Therapeutics with botanical extracts, fractions and pure compounds for conducting a unique and innovative cellular assay in which “hits,” or drug leads, are discovered and targeted to selectively inhibit solid tumor cell growth with limited impact on normal cells. In the discovery process, Unigen will apply its technology platform, PhytoLogixTM, to dereplicate the hit fractions and isolate novel, solid tumor selective natural products for clonogenic, formulation and pharmacological studies at 21st Century Therapeutics.

This collaboration will allow 21st Century Therapeutics to access more than 6,000 plant extracts and 200,000 High Throughput Purification (HTP) fractions and pure compounds in Unigen’s PhytoLogixTM library, and to rapidly and efficiently identify and develop new anti-cancer drugs and put them into clinical trials. During the first stage of the agreement, 21st Century Therapeutics has already completed screening of 1,061 plant extracts with 36 positive hits against solid tumors. After carrying out further fractionation, Unigen has identified 13 medicinal plants from those positive hits for active compound isolation and identification. Both companies expect to have lead compounds moving into preclinical evaluation by the end of this year.

Dr. Qi Jia, Unigen’s Vice President of Scientific Affairs, said, “Natural product chemistry has played a very important role in cancer therapy and has accounted for 61% of anti-cancer drugs approved between 1983 and 1994. We believe it will continue to contribute in this therapeutic field by offering structure diversity and drugs even more efficacious than Taxol. It is exciting to integrate the discovery efforts of two technology-oriented institutes to form a collaboration that is sure to be productive and full of potential.”

Dr. Frederick Valeriote, President and CEO of 21st Century Therapeutics, commented, “Cancer is an insidious disease that, even after decades of research, continues to afflict millions of people each year.” He explained that a major problem with present day cancer chemotherapy is the serious deficiency of active drugs for the curative therapy of solid tumors. “We are determined to develop novel and powerful technology targeting various solid tumor cancers. We expect that further studies on plants will lead to unique chemical structures with significant clinical therapeutic values and are confident we will achieve that goal through our partnership with Unigen.”

Unigen’s primary technology platform, PhytoLogixTM, is a fully-indexed research resource that includes Bioprospecting, Bio-Informatics, High Throughput Purification (HTP), and Structure Dereplication processes. This proprietary technology allows the company to quickly search through tens of thousands of ethnomedicinal plants categorized by their traditional and historic uses. From the obvious to the unusual, PhytoLogixTM is one of the world's largest information sources for predictive discovery of ethnomedicinal plants, saving considerable time from the front end of the research process.

Other technology platforms at Unigen include Integrated Discovery SolutionTM and UniGenixTM, which include mechanism-of-action derived high throughput screenings, multiple-assay based efficacy confirmation, extensive safety evaluation, and gene expression technology—all providing a sophisticated process yielding patentable compounds and proprietary ingredients with market identification and differentiation.

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About Unigen Pharmaceuticals

Unigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc. is a leading natural products research and development facility and proprietary ingredients supplier. The company is dedicated to the discovery of botanically derived therapeutic compounds that address consumer health needs and help improve the quality of human life. Unigen (www.unigenpharma.com), and sister company Aloecorp, are subsidiaries of Univera, Inc. Both companies focus on identifying and studying the unique ingredients of medicinal botanicals (Aloecorp’s focus is on Aloe vera) and then formulating proprietary raw materials for use in cosmeceutical, nutraceutical and pharmaceutical products.

About 21st Century Therapeutics, Inc.

21st Century Therapeutics is a product-focused, development-oriented biotech company with a science team that has already placed six anti-tumor compounds into human clinical studies through licensing to pharmaceutical companies. Its exclusive ORION discovery and development platform combines a unique and novel in vitro Solid Tumor Selective (STS) technology with an exclusive Chemistry, Clonogenic, Formulation and Pharmacology studies (CCFP) platform to ensure that its drugs will be bioavailable and active in subsequent in vivo Therapeutic Assessment. Data from all these components, together with a Molecular Brushing (MB) platform, are blended in a proprietary manner to identify and characterize potential clinical strengths and weaknesses of an experimental anti-cancer drug. The added value of this approach includes early stage prediction of the drug’s therapeutic effectiveness in humans as well as the novel target mechanism by which it acts.

Contacts:
Susan Westfall, Principal Regan Miles, V.P. – Sales & Marketing
Westfall Communications Unigen Pharmaceuticals, Inc.
303-926-4093 303-438-8666 x11
[email protected] [email protected]

Delicious Living

April 1, 2003

Communicating Condition-Specific Products

In response to the growing self-care movement, more manufacturers are launching condition-specific foods. But it is critical to market the health message in a positive way so as not to scare off the consumer. Arran Stephens explains.

The growing global functional foods industry is now estimated at approximately $56.58 billion (NBJ, 2002) and was actually the most media-covered health topic of the year, bumping out even women's health as the top media preoccupation. But what about other market segments that are being stimulated by this prolific functional trend? Enter 'do-it-yourself' health care and condition-specific functional foods.

Increasingly, studies and polls indicate that consumers are looking to take greater control of their health. This self-care trend involves a greater consumer awareness of the diet and disease connection, that diet has a positive role in lowering the risk of some diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes. At the very least, a balanced, whole-foods diet helps alleviate many unpleasant symptoms.

In one self-report study, 75 per cent of consumers felt that healthy eating was a better way to treat illness than medication, and 57 per cent believed that foods could potentially replace some drugs (HealthFocus, 2001).

I'm not sure if it's frustration with the health care system or scepticism about conventional medicine—or any combination of factors—but there seems to be a general and increasing awareness that specific foods and nutrients deliver health-promoting benefits. Many consumers are no longer relying solely on conventional medicine or outside supplementation.

According to a joint Food Marketing Institution (FMI) and Prevention study conducted in 2001, actual US sales of functional foods as a result of health maintenance or preventive positioning have increased 58 per cent since 1998.

The Marketing Science Institute (MSI) found that consumers are interested in trying fortified foods to help with a variety of conditions. This includes, according to self reports, products to promote coronary health (75 per cent); stimulate energy (72 per cent); treat/prevent joint pain and arthritis (71 per cent); improve mental health/attention (69 per cent); and promote intestinal health (66 per cent). Another study found consumers wanting more food products and information addressing conditions such as high cholesterol (53 per cent), cancer (53 per cent), high blood pressure (52 per cent), weight control (49 per cent), diabetes (49 per cent) and osteoporosis (41 per cent) (FMI/Prevention, 2001).

Don't Alienate The Consumer
While this condition-specific usage is nothing new to those relatively few well versed in herb lore and natural supplementation—specifically products used to treat conditions such as colds/flu, allergies, bone-density loss, immunity and energy decline—this trend continues to expand amongst the traditional core of users, bridging to the mainstream of society.

One of the more significant challenges manufacturers face is promoting foods related to specific conditions without drawing attention to the condition itself. As was found, many consumers strongly prefer to keep the focus on health, wellness, prevention and exercise rather than on calling attention to health conditions they may have or to lowering risk for getting them.

In several recent cases, complicated marketing schemes and overpricing have led to high-profile failures. For example, Novartis' heart and bone benefit brand Aviva failed in the UK, Austria and Switzerland when consumers didn't respond to its science-based marketing approach. Striking the balance of providing consumers with useful and important information about possible health and wellness functionality without alienating them is vital for the success of any condition-specific functional food.

The lag time between the publication of health nutrition research and if/when it becomes available to the general public also is fairly significant. Often the onus of consumer education falls to companies. Cultivating a relationship of educational trust between a business and the consumer is the penultimate step to successfully marketing a condition-specific product. Education needs to be founded on a relationship of trust and information-sharing that uses language which is not overly scientific or alienating, simplistic or condescending.

There are caveats, of course. Educational efforts should be stated in language appropriate to the target audience. Language that is overly simplistic, for instance, may seem irritating to well-read and better educated consumers. Second, marketing presentations for condition-specific products should aim as high as possible without being so narrow in viewpoint as to risk alienation. That is, prose that's appropriate for the lab technician may be alienating to the lay person.

The Case Of Energy Bars
The relaxing of regulations regarding dietary supplements has led to the creation of functional foods, one of which—cereal bars—has played a fairly significant role. According to Health Products Business (April 2002), in the nine years between 1991 and 2000, the percentage of foods and beverages that had functional claims attached to them increased from 12 to 14 per cent. Given the size of the food products market, a two per cent rise is significant. However, by 2001 the percentage had levelled down to 13 per cent. According to a Mintel study on the cereal bar market, by 2002, manufacturers had become cautious about creating functional products because consumers had apparently become displeased with the lack of verifiable or experienced health benefits. Most tellingly, in the subcategory of snack bars, snack mixes and energy bars, there was a peak of 27 functional cereal bar rollouts in 1999 in the US, two in 2000, seven in 2001, and only one before August 2002. Furthermore, most of the products from 1999 have disappeared or have had health benefit claims quietly removed from their labels.

The failure or total removal of health claims from some products illustrates the great difficulty that manufacturers face in producing tangible proof and winning consumer trust in health or functional claims. A significant challenge to deal with is that many of these product claims or benefits—general fitness or weight loss for instance—require a change in consumer behaviour or lifestyle in order to be fulfilled. And altering consumer behaviour or lifestyle choices is obviously very difficult, even in cases where they profess a desire for change.

Nevertheless, the possibilities for condition-specific health benefits are still tantalizing for both producers and consumers, and it therefore seems likely that producers will continue to invest in research and development and consumers will continue to give the products a try.

Communicating A Positive Message
As mentioned previously, researchers have found that consumers do want more food products and reliable information that address a variety of conditions they are concerned about. The way in which the information is presented and disseminated is, it seems, almost as important as the information itself. Thus, for example, when dealing with what are essentially personal issues, it's important to communicate in a personal manner without using scare tactics. The emphasis should be on the positive.

When marketing efforts are focused on specific conditions, the consumer response becomes limited. Genericising health benefits broadly and in ways that do not exclude consumers on the basis of gender, age and ethnic lines may seem counterproductive to some marketers of condition-specific products. Yet, for instance in presenting a low-carb food aimed at carbohydrate-restricted diets, there is no reason to exclude other users.

Mark Whitworth, writing in Food Product Design, noted that Yakult Honsha Company in Japan had created a drink with probiotic effect and had found marketing success by making soft health claims and capitalizing on what consumers already knew and trusted about its other products.

What has added to the success of products that have nutraceutical benefits is an emphasis on good taste. Today's consumer is savvy enough to know that functionality does not have to come at the expense of exceptional flavour and texture. To achieve the taste-factor goal, an ongoing commitment to extensive R&D and incorporation of focus group feedback is essential.

In addition to condition-specific functionality and taste, today's consumer is also appreciative of products that are grown by environmentally friendly organic methods and that bear a recognised third-party certification seal.

As manufacturers, our challenge is, and will be, to tap into what consumers want; to create products with visible and inherent health benefits; and create products that align with strict regulatory barriers—while still tasting good.

Arran Stephens is founder, president and CEO of Nature's Path Foods, LifeStream and EnviroKidz. Contact: [email protected] www.naturespath.com

EU Seeks Greater Food Fortification Control

Fortifying foods with ingredients such as taurine, guarana, caffeine and St John's wort will be severely curtailed or banned outright under proposed new European food additives legislation.

Quinine, glucuronolactone, aristolochic acid, nicotine and ephedrine are other additives that could encounter severe restrictions when the draft regulation becomes law in an estimated two to three years' time.

Both foods and food supplements will come under the proposal's jurisdiction, which also proposes a ban on vitamin and mineral fortification of beverages containing more than 1.2 per cent alcohol.

National mandatory fortification policies won't be affected and products will have two years to comply once the proposal is law.

The popular energy drink Red Bull is one product that may be affected by the legislation as it contains both caffeine (likely to be restricted in products such as soft drinks) and taurine (its safety is under EU scrutiny).

"We have serious concerns regarding the 'other substances' added to the draft regulation," said Daniela Muchna, Red Bull's regulatory affairs manager at the company's Austrian headquarters. "Energy drinks containing taurine and glucuronolactone have been available for more than 40 years in Japan and more than 15 years in Europe."

She suggested the European Food Safety Authority's ingredient safety appraisal process was a problem area because those ingredients that haven't had a verdict cast upon them within three years will be banned. "It seems inappropriate that a delay in the evaluation could lead to the prohibition of foodstuffs in the EC which are safe, exported from the EC to other countries such as the US, Australia and Switzerland in great amounts and which are otherwise consumed freely worldwide."

Europe To Crack Down On Health Claims

The European regulatory climate governing nutrition and health claims is set to get a lot tougher if the latest European Commission draft proposal is adopted in its current state.

A leaked document on the EC's initial draft proposal, first published last summer, reveals how seriously Europe views the task of cracking down on ambiguous and misleading claims. The new document is causing widespread concern.

Pedro deAzua, regulatory affairs director of the European Federation of Associations Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), said his association held many reservations about the proposal. "Many countries have a lot of health claims. These seem certain to be reduced once they pass before the European Food Safety Authority and then the EC, and yet their criteria has not been made clear to us," said deAzua. "It seems like a very restrictive piece of legislation. We want to know more about how these procedures are to be carried out."

Penny Viner, director of the UK-based Health Food Manufacturers Association, also expressed concern "The basis of food law is to prevent food producers from misleading consumers. We have no problem with that," she said. "But there are many areas in this proposal we would seek to challenge. For instance, cognitive claims continue to be ruled out. They've become rather usual in the current market but regulators think the claims don't add up.

"We'll challenge that because we in the functional foods industry think there is a lot of work they have not actually looked at.

"We also think there are serious question marks over time-scale and practicality given the number of different cultures and languages and the way different parts of Europe perceive health," she added.

A formally updated proposal was expected as FF&N went to press.

EC Says No To Noni Ban

The Pacific plant noni (Morinda citrifolia), whose fruit is used to make a drink popular in Hawaii, Tahati and other Pacific islands, has won European approval as a novel food.

The European Commission banned the product in 2001 for failing to provide a history of safe consumption, but reversed its decision after assessing new evidence submitted by a group of predominantly American importers.

"This is a step forward in showing European Union authorities that noni is harmless," said Scott Schuett, production manager for Pharm East Hawaii Inc, which markets a range of noni products. "The next step is to convince the committee that all pure noni products should be admissable into the European market as food and not admissable under the novel foods laws."

Germany-based noni marketer Pharmos is currently petitioning the European Commision to do just that. A decision could come as early as this summer.

Noni is said to have antioxidant and other benefits, and has been formulated into drinks, cosmeceuticals, pills, yoghurts green tea and chewing gum. Noni sales topped $600 million worldwide in 2002, with sales roughly split between the US and Asia, so the European market is ripe for growth.