Mark Blumenthal, executive director for the American Botanical Council (ABC), said that in addition to US regulations on permissible additive levels in foods, some herbal goods offering stimulant benefits like caffeine should carry consumer warnings.
This week, the Australia-based independent consumer group CHOICE published a report on the potential affects of cpnsuming juice products with added ingredients like aloe vera, ginkgo and ginseng.
In its report, the group, which looked at a selection of clinical trials as well as product labels, alleged that certain herbal ingredient fortified juices sold in the country had no additional nutritional benefits and were even potentially dangerous for some consumers. The fears relate specifically to pregnant women and other consumers taking certain medicines.
Representatives from the Australian Beverage Council said that all its members were directed to comply with standards outlined by theAustralian New Zealand Food Standards Authority (FSANZ) on additive use.
Despite the report, the ABC said that internationally there were already a number of global initiatives designed to detail the use of herbal products in finished goods and ensure their safe inclusion in products.
Blumenthal told NutraIngredient-USA.com that, while US systems like GRAS (generally recognized as safe) recognition already ascertain safe levels of herbal ingredient use in food, there are some potential exceptions to their inclusion.
“Antioxidant herbal ingredients are usually required to be GRAS for their intended food use and within a certain level or range of concentration in the food,” he stated. “Thus, by definition, they normally would not require any special labelling, or warnings.”
It is exceptions like caffeine-containing beverages other than tea and coffee, such as products containing cola or guarana, that Blumenthal suggested could potentially require clear warnings on potential risks for certain consumers sensitivities.
“We believe the total amount or range of caffeine should be declared, in the event that some consumers are not aware that some ingredients contain caffeine,” he stated.
The ABC suggested that other declarations may also require similar labelling.
Blumenthal added that another important factor on labelling related to whether a product was marketed as a conventional food or dietary supplement. In the case of Australia, he said there was an additional class of products known as a ‘therapeutic goods’, a term that applies to any product, including juices and foods, that purport to offer some medicinal of physiological benefit.
“As a therapeutic good and/or as a dietary supplement, ABC believes that the product label should carry as much information as is reasonably possible to provide adequate, accurate, and responsible information to the consumer,” he stated.
According to the botanical group, labelling for such products should take into account any potential adverse affects reasonably expected from a product. These could include warnings related to pregnancy and clinically documented information on drug interactions.
The ABC said that although it did provide clinical research to product manufacturers on the level of existing information on products, it did not work directly with industry on incorporating herbal goods or other products.