the role of the Institute of Medicine’s (IOM’s) Food Forum? What is the role of the International Life Sciences Institute? What is the role of the Codex Alimentarius Commission? Another audience member referred to Roller’s suggestion that lessons might be learned from environmental law. He also mentioned Roller’s remarks about potential opportunities in the current law to consider prebiotics or probiotics as food for special dietary use or medical food. Salminen reminded the workshop audience to include the European Union in the dialogue. In a sense, this IOM workshop itself may have served as a starting point. As one audience member said, “I do not recall these conversations really going on seriously at any other meeting.”
One audience member suggested that a congressional champion be found in the United States, and perhaps a parliamentary champion in the European Union, to partner with industry and academia as a first step toward renovating the regulatory framework. To attract interest, an argument can be made that being unable to communicate the results of scientific research on food labels is not just a disservice to public health, but also to national competitiveness and global welfare. Another audience member wondered about the role of industry in initiating the conversation. Yet another participant wondered whether the World Health Organization might have a program in place that can serve as a model.
Mary Ellen Sanders agreed that “something needs to be done, something fundamental.” However, she cautioned that efforts to change the regulatory framework will take a long time and may not even be successful. Meanwhile, what can be done? Are there ways to approach the regulatory authorities and “nudge” their interpretations of the law around food claims? Roller replied that, yes, there are places in the existing legal framework where the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has “some running room.” However, given all of the other responsibilities that FDA has right now, she predicts that it “is quite doubtful” that it would take this on as well. Historically, solutions to these sorts of problems have come from third parties, where someone else finds the solution and then educates the parties. She concluded, “That is what I would recommend here.”
At the end of the first day of the workshop, speakers from the afternoon sessions were asked to identify priorities for future research. This section summarizes their responses. Their responses were not intended to reflect a comprehensive examination of gaps in knowledge, nor do they reflect consensus. The list below reflects individual opinions of workshop speakers.