Functional Foods Refer to the Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

18). In this manner, the public and private sectors can ascertain that via reflection and debate, the appropriate issues are addressed, the product is truly what it is with no erroneous and misleading claims attached, and that consultation will be implemented in a manner equitable to all. This was the way, for instance that Pollard et al. (2001) and Roos et al. (2002) implemented food and nutrition policy schemes at the local, state, and national levels, for instance, in the case of Pollard et al. (2001), in child care centers.

Questions that involved in policy evaluation include:

Have the stated goals and performance indicators of the policy been achieved -- for instance, is corruption impeded and all foods truly styled for what they are including their potential negatives?

Are there changes in the area that the policy was supposed to be influencing?

Has the policy really caused the claimed change or are other factors involved?

Was the policy cost-effective?

The entire process of policy construction and policy evaluation is one that may be conducted between different sectors in the private sectors, or preferably one that is leveraged by public sectors against the private sector with an involved campaign for government support.

4. What do you think should be the respective roles of the public and private sectors in nutrition education, monitoring and evaluation of functional foods?

The public can also teach awareness regarding interests that are involved in manufacturing food. Critical awareness of the issues involved is crucial.

Understanding the role that language plays is helpful. Facts become malleable through language and take on different forms. Performative language seduces and persuades creating a miasma when none existed. An understanding of the concept of social constructionism (how language can be employed to describe the same thing in various ways) and marketing manipulation helps. Thought, too, can be accorded to the fact that assumptions about certain factors repeated often and vigorously enough soon become accepted as 'truth' and 'fact' (Cummins & McIntyre, 2002). All assertions, therefore, have to be thoroughly investigated, howsoever convinced we may be about their truth-value.

Parsons (1995) postulates four types of questions that can be asked as a way of critically evaluating 'knowledge' and 'evidence':

1. Whose knowledge is being used? Who, for instance, funded the research and how is propagating (or advertising) this food?

2. What kind of knowledge does it claim to be? Is it scientific or objective? What kind of experts are involved? What sort of ideology underpins the information?

3. Is the 'knowledge' or 'evidence' so simply because a given construct of social values exist right now at this given period?

4. How is knowledge used in the policy process? How is this knowledge propagated and how does it impact on public opinion?

As Lang (1997) shows, a concerned public can certainly influence food policy if it wishes to. During the 1980s and early 1990s in Britain, for instance, food campaigns organized by non-government organizations played a key role in generating interest in food policy. The way that they did this can be of help to us in our own discussion about how to fight possible malingering in the 'functional' food factor. NGO's campaigned in two ways: firstly, they created alliances between middle-class people, politicians, scientists, activists, and anyone interested in the food movement. Secondly, they instituted an organized voice in their policy making and then followed that policy making with vigilance focused on the actions of government and the food industry. They also made sure that the public and government were aware of the fact that the food policy debate was not as much on health (as was originally thought) as it was concerned with market-driven interests. It is in this way that private sectors (or NGO's) working together can influence government and private corporations or sector, and have a significant impact on food policy debates.

Finally, the media is an important factor in the construction of public awareness regarding the problem. As witnessed with the outbreak of the 'mad cow' disease in Europe, the media capitalized on this theme since it knew it would cater to public interest. The media in this way can act as 'gatekeepers' by blocking certain news from reaching the public and only allowing news that it considers newsworthy to enter.

The obesity epidemic is another noteworthy example. The media finds the problem, fascinating, it exaggerates the issue, and the scientific community abets the hype by providing further research outcomes, which again is employed by the media to sensationalize the issue.

As Parsons (1995) indicates, the media influences public thinking and policy making in the following manner:

1. It adopts a newsworthy incident.

2. It takes up the story, dramatizes it, focuses on it, and blows it up out of proportion

3. The incident is portrayed as illustrating a wider social problem

4. Stereotypes emerge, the issue is distorted, and there is 'out of proportion coverage'

5. As public panic ensues (as occurred with t he 'mad cow' epidemic.

6. The public sector insists that policy be either created or altered to deal with the topic.

In this way, the media becomes powerful and influential in not only influencing public opinion but also in creating and altering policy. It promises to be, in this way, a crucial instrument that parties interested in altering public policy connected with the 'functional foods' controversy should be aware of.

5. What do you expect would be the impact (positive and/or negative) of the introduction of functional foods and health claims? On consumers; food manufacturers; public health; public health practitioners; the food supply; the food regularity system

The Alma Ata Declaration (1978) defined Primary Health Care in the following way:

It is essential care based on practical scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and techniques, made universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost the community and the country can afford to maintain at every stage of their development in the spirit of self-reliance and self-determination.

Functional food polices, in its essence, reneges on some of those expectations by:

a. Not being on "scientifically sound and socially acceptable methods and techniques," and,

b. Not being "universally accessible to individuals and families in the community through their full participation and at a cost the community and the country can afford."

In its essence it is a non-democratic, potentially corrupt and commercialized system and should certainly be impeded.

In conclusion, there are two types of science that inform policy: so-called conventional science and regulatory science (Busch, 2002). Conventional science is the acknowledged, traditional science that, for instance, appears in experiments conducted with the social and physical sciences, is peer-reviewed, and presented in respected academic journals. Regulatory science, on the other hand, does not subscribe to the usual conventions of science. It is not peer reviewed, has to make recommendations to inform policy, and has to conform to certain legal frameworks. It may easily become 'bad' science, and it is this sort of science that is entangled with the 'functional food' debate. It has vested interests, is not always well conducted and may contain statements of dubious truth. For the interests of the public and for science as a subject alike as well as for the credibility of the nation, it is important that the allegations of these functional foods be controlled so that science should not be misused and an innocent public duped.


Alma Ata Declaration of Health for All (1978),

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Lang, T. (1997). Going public: Food campaigns during the 1980s and early 1990s. In D. Smith (Ed.), Nutrition in Britain -- Science, scientists and politics in the twentieth century (pp. 238-260). London: Routledge.

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Pollard, C., Lewis, J., & Miller, M. (2001). Start Right -- Eat Right award scheme: Implementing food and nutrition policy in child care centres. Health Education and Behaviour, 28(3), 320-330.

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