The functional foods will come up for discussion at an international food safety conference, to be held this month in Sydney.
Food Standards Australia New Zealand (FSANZ), a governmental body responsible for developing food standards for Australia and New Zealand, will next year seek to have high-level health claims strictly regulated and legalised.
The standards body will detail its plans at the second Food Safety Conference, New Directions 2007, to be held on September 19-21.
Lydia Buchtmann, the spokeswoman for FSANZ, admits that it is illegal to make any "high-level" health claims of food, such as its reducing the risk of cancer or heart disease. She, however, claims that many products are "sailing pretty close to the wind" with general health claims.
She says that the only exception to the laws is folic acid, which is proven to decrease the risk of having a baby with spina bifida.
"Functional foods are moving from food that fills you up and are good for you to something that will prevent cancer and urinary tract infection (for example)," the Sydney Morning Herald quoted Buchtmann as saying.
She says that foods claimed to be low in saturated and tarns fats, or fruits and vegetables said to decrease the risk of heart disease, are likely to get the legal nod. But, she adds, any association between eating fruit and vegetables and reduction in the risk of cancer will not be approved because it lacks evidence.
According to Buchtmann, general health claims like sugarless products promoting dental health or cranberry juice assisting recovery from urinary tract infection or calcium intake improving bone strength may be legalised.
Manufacturers must have scientific proof, and the food's ingredients will be put through a computerised "nutrient profiler" to measure good and bad ingredients.
Dr. Bruce Lee, the director of CSIRO Food Futures who will speak at the conference, said that scientists were working on developing a glycoprotein with a "satiating effect" and potential to control weight.
Other additives with a health benefit above nutrition include an "anti-thrombic" ingredient to help prevent deep-vein thrombosis, a glucosamine/chondroitin-like compound to help prevent arthritis, and an antioxidant from Australian native fruits to combat the effects of ageing, he said.
He also said that scientists were researching how to make tasty, healthy, high-energy foods.
"It would be to take a hamburger that tastes like a hamburger, will give you the same eating experience, but doesn't give you all the calories ... we hope that this will happen in the next five years," he said.
Dr. Lee said that scientists could achieve their object by using "fat replacers" such as a modified protein, perceived to have the same taste properties as saturated fat but without any harmful effects.