Thursday, November 25, 2010


If fancy terminologies can ensure consumer satisfaction, this must be the happiest times for the consumers when one hears about things that do not make much sense. Simple process of preparation of food became food technology, serving food in an eatery became restaurant service, simple daily chores in the house holds became home science, tasting of food came to be known as organoleptic assessment, microbiological work get described as fermentation, biotechnology, bioengineering, biomedical engineering, tissue culture, genetic engineering etc etc. One is often confused by closely related topics like food science, food technology, dietary science, home science, nutrification, nutraceuticals, pharma foods, specialty foods, functional foods etc with overlapping areas of interest. The latest to arrive is Nutricosmetics which was first mentioned in 1980's in Sweden. Ostensibly the term is supposed to encompass nutritional supplements that can support the function and structure of the skin. Here is a commentary on the subject which raises some critical regulatory and development issues.

"Cosmetics and toiletries are taking new forms, with beauty products moving from tubes to foods. Interest in nutricosmetics has begun to grow alongside interest in functional products, leading to the addition of new products that are complementary to the traditional beauty industry. Nutricosmetics have emerged as a segment of nutraceuticals, initially gaining popularity in Japan and Europe and now gaining ground in the U.S. The term derives from the combination of foods, pharma and cosmetics. Nutricosmetic products generally focus on three areas: skin, hair and beauty. In the skin segment, nutricosmetics address a range of problems—including skin repair, pigmentation issues, firmness, whitening, slimming and aging. For hair, nutricosmetic products claim to aid growth, restoration, nourishment and volume, while nail-specific products concentrate on improving strength and the overall appearance of nails. Nutricosmetics are available in pill, tablet, liquid and food formats. Foods and drinks positioned and marketed as beauty-enhancing are a newer concept, with added-value functional foods becoming the next logical step for innovation in the cosmetics and toiletries industry".

"Competitive pressures in the cosmetics and toiletries, OTC health care, and food and drinks industries alike are seeing manufacturers expand their offerings with high added-value products. The introduction of nutricosmetic products in Europe remains problematic due to the lack of a regulatory system. As things currently stand, the regulatory environment for nutricosmetic products is more favorable in Japan, where an established system is in place for the approval of functional and nutricosmetic products. The likelihood of introducing similar legislative procedures in Europe and the U.S. could prove more problematic, thus making the introduction of new product innovations in these regions more difficult. In Europe, nutricosmetics would fall under both food and medicinal law, but the decision as to which applies varies by country".

It is true that some of the micro-nutrients like vitamin C, Omega-3 Acids, Carotene, Flavonoids etc have skin protecting role mainly because of their antioxidant and oxyradical neutralizing ability. But projecting them as a separate area can only be for commercial interest and no wonder this "new" industry is boasting of a business turn over of more than $ one billion in the US itself. One must pity the unenviable situation regulatory authorities world over are in for evolving standards of quality, safety and claim evaluation for these types of new products. It is true every human being wants to be beautiful or handsome in appearance and such obsessions can conflict with health and well being. There are many products targeted at these gullible consumers. Some of the manufacturers use world-wide web network for circumventing restrictions by governments and obviously are succeeding at it. While use of some of the products for external application may not pose much danger, when products are offered on-line for direct consumption with some promised attributes without adequate proof, such a situation cannot be allowed to flourish.


No comments: