According to recent news reports, Nestle, the maker of Gerber baby food, Nescafe instant coffee, Kit Kat chocolate bars and Maggi soups, will begin testing its products with stem cell research.
Nestle will obtain human brain and liver cells from biotechnology firm Cellular Dynamics International (CDI) to study the effect of nutrients found in foods.
CDI develops and manufactures human cells in industrial quantities for research customers, and has signed a long-term agreement to supply stem cells to the Nestle Institute of Health Sciences.
The Wall Street Journal added that Nestle scientists have already started studies of CDI nerve cells to see how the fatty acids found in avocados and olive oil affect them.
The WSJ notes experts have expressed doubts that changing ingredients in foods may affect chronic diseases.
Marion Nestle, a professor of nutrition, food studies and public health at New York University, told CBS News adding nutrients to foods has never worked very well except for treating diseases caused by nutrient deficiencies.
Diseases “have multiple causes, and food is very complicated and diet is very complicated,” said Nestle, who has no relationship to the food company.
Nestle is progressively linking up food and science with its health science unit to pursue a growing demand for “medical foods” from an aging population.
CBS claims last year, Nestle had plans to buy U.S. company Pamlab, which makes foods for patients with conditions including diabetic peripheral neuropathy, dementia, depression and high-risk pregnancy.
That deal followed the purchase in 2012 of a stake in U.S. firm Accera, which makes a medical food brand for Alzheimer’s patients.
Time points out Nestle will obtain the stem cells made from mature human cells to examine how nutritionally enhanced drinks, smoothies and other products can have medical benefits.
Nestle’s deal with Cellular Dynamics International Inc. was announced last week.
Nestle isn’t alone regarding the use of stem cells for research. Competitors like Danone have also been investing in medically enhanced products.
Time claims the worldwide market for health and wellness food and beverages is forecast to grow from $772 billion in 2013 to $944 billion in 2018.
Food Dive comments: “Did anyone tell the public-relations team about this deal beforehand?”
Food Dive questions Nestle’s move since stem cells are controversial.
“Given such controversy, and given that this is an era in which millions of consumers are already worried about GMO foods, we have to wonder about the wisdom of taking things a step further and linking a food brand to human stem cells.”