Functional foods: an Australian perspective
There are many definitions of functional foods, although with a common element of providing some functional advantage to consumers, and they are almost universally associated with food innovation. In Australia, the National Centre of Excellence in Functional Foods (NCEFF) was established with five-year federal innovation funding to help build capability in functional food research and development. This review sets the context for the NCEFF science program, by first outlining global concepts of functional foods and the nature of the scientific enterprise associated with it. The review provides a working definition of functional foods, describes the types of research reported in Medline in the last year and compares this with the NCEFF program of research. The ‘working space’ for functional foods was found to relate to the nutritional and food sciences, regulatory conditions, consumer/market and health concerns and industry opportunity. The term is appearing increasingly in Medline, mostly under review articles, but also with respect to in vitro and animal model studies, human clinical trials and consumer research. The spectrum of research undertaken in the NCEFF science program was consistent with this pattern. The review found that Australian researchers and practitioners have the capacity to deliver on major fronts in the functional foods domain and to be part of the challenges for food and nutrition research that have been exposed through the functional food phenomenon.