An increasing number of food products make certain claims regarding their beneficial health effects. We term such products ‘functional foods’.
In many cases,
the products have added ingredients which are alleged to contribute
to a healthy diet. A product's label may state that it has been
'enriched with Vitamin' or that it 'contains extra
calcium'. Products which make health claims can be found in
many forms: dairy drinks, breakfast cereals, margarines and
ingredients for other food products. An increase in the consumption
of dietary supplements such as vitamin pills has also been
It is important to ascertain the extent to which these products are actually consumed, precisely what they contain and whether they do indeed have any effect on health, beneficial or otherwise.
RIVM conducts research examining the use of functional foods and their health effects. We develop new methods and models to support this research. We maintain a database which includes all available knowledge about food products, supplements and pharmaceuticals, which can be consulted by professionals and policy-makers. The database will also form the basis of an up-to-date and user-friendly website presenting information about strategies to improve health, with particular regard to the 'crossover' between food products and pharmaceutical products. In this context, RIVM also examines the interactions between food products and medicinal products, thus assisting consumers to make an appropriate choice between standard food products, supplements and pharmaceuticals. Our database enables users to compare the likely effectiveness of different strategies.
Since 2006, there has been a European Regulation (EC 1924/2006)
which regulates the nutrition and health claims made on the labels
of food products and supplements. The veracity of such claims must
be assessed by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) and RIVM
In addition, RIVM conducts research into functional foods on behalf of the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport (VWS) and assists the Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (VWA) in enforcing legislation governing health claims.