The Increase In Medical Food Production

The medical food production industry is growing as people are becoming more aware of the role nutrition and healthy living play in disease recovery. QTalent looks at what this means for food and beverage scientists who want to reap the benefits of the expanding medical food production industry. 

As policymakers and medical fraternities recognise that food's role in treating ailments, diseases, and general well-being is being adopted worldwide, the medical food industry is growing, pushing food scientists to develop new innovative products. 

And the revenue growth is proof of this. 

The global market for medical food ingredients is expected to garner $7.73 billion in revenue by 2030 from $5.77 billion in 2021 

Source: Frost & Sullivan’s Global Medical Food Growth Opportunities 

A collaboration between drug and food & beverage manufacturing to meet the growing demand for medical food products will see R&D career opportunities open with food research & development jobs on the rise. 

But before we jump into future career opportunities, let's take a step back and explore what medical food actually means. 

What is medical food? 

The US FDA defines a medical food product as "a food which is formulated to be consumed or administered enterally (orally or by food tubing)under the supervision of a physician and which is intended for the specific dietary management of a disease or condition for which distinctive nutritional requirements, based on recognized scientific principles, are established by medical evaluation." (Source: Global Medical Food Market Report 2022). 

In simple English, this means that “medical food” is a food used for special medical purposes. 

These are not the dietary supplements and natural food products people use to maintain their health (and are often over-the-counter supplements or the latest Kombucha smoothie) but rather products used specifically for people with a specific medical disease such as diabetes, Crohn’s, ulcerative colitis and even ADHD and insomnia.  

Ingredients for medical food production are also regulated (not as stringently as pharmaceutical products), but labelling regulations do normally apply. 

This definition is widely adopted in Europe, India, China, Australia and New Zealand. 

But here is where the confusion creeps in.

While all countries agree that medical products are a category of their own (aka not Pharmaceuticals or Dietary Supplements) and are for treating specific medical conditions, the regulations differ globally. 

In Japan, medical food is interpreted as “food for the sick”. In Canada, medical food production is governed by food for special dietary use (FSDU) and infant food regulations. 

Canada’s regulations are particularly prohibitive compared to other countries, which makes the entire product development cycle more difficult. (But don’t be put off, it also opens challenging food research & development jobs for ambitious food scientists or R&D specialists looking to expand their skill sets.) 

There is a drastic need to redefine regulations and a willingness of regulatory bodies to adapt definitions as science advances. This will enable patients to receive medical food products that will improve their quality of life. 

Health Canada is working on a regulatory framework to enable clinical trials on non-compliant foods for special dietary purposes, “which will allow people in Canada to have early access to new products by removing the current barrier where a clinical trial has to be conducted outside of Canada before the product can be submitted to Health Canada for review.” 

Collaboration between drug and medical food manufacturers opens new opportunities.

Food scientists and research and development specialists are in a great position. As the growing demand for medical food production increases, so does the need for healthier products in general. 

As they say, “the greatest treatment of diseases is prevention.” Food and beverage scientists have the unique opportunity to develop new fortified ingredients to help improve people's quality of life.  

A great example is Cargill Limited, headquartered right here in Winnipeg, which opened Cargill Health Technologies in 2019 to expand its R&D capabilities in the gut and digestive health space, and now offers prebiotics such as its Oliggo-Fiber chicory root fiber. 

Collaborations between food and beverage manufacturers, drug and medical food producers offer opportunities for food scientists to learn and grow in areas such as clinical trial tests, technology-based personalized nutrition platforms and a better understanding of the paediatric health industry to develop new product innovations such as fortified infant formulas, supplements as well as nutritional infused beverages. 

The bottom line for food and beverage processing specialists. 

Collaborations are blurring the divide between medical food production manufacturers, food and beverage manufacturers and Natural health producers.

The combined participation will ultimately allow for better investment in research and development, put pressure on government and institutions to create enhanced food safety measures and regulations and create opportunities for development and growth for food safety professionals, quality assurance specialists and food & beverage scientists. 

If you are interested in health, a career as a food research & development professional working in medical food production or in natural health product development may be the perfect job for you. 

QTalent can help you find the perfect food research & development job based on your career growth goals. So if you are a food scientist looking to change verticals, let QTalent help you find the perfect employer. 

Check out QTalent.com to find out more.

Romy Zwiers

Author

Romy Zwiers is a journalist and marketing professional with 16 years of experience working across industries with a keen focus on the beverage and food industry, having worked with companies like KFC, Nandos, Cadbury and Coca-Cola.

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