The Food and Drug Administration will allow food makers to list health claims on labels before they have been scientifically proven, and promises to crack down on false health claims made by manufacturers of dietary supplements.

The dual initiative is designed to provide more information to consumers and cut down on regulation of the industry. By changing the standard from "significant scientific agreement" to "the weight of scientific evidence," the government will make it easier for industry to give consumers more information, and that will promote improved public health, say administration officials. More information on the labels will enable consumers to make better health choices when selecting foods.

Unlike prescription drugs, supplements do not need to pass FDA tests before entering the market, exempting the $17-billion-a-year dietary supplement industry from some federal regulation. The FDA's authority is limited to ensuring truthfulness of labeling and advertising. When it is proven that a supplement has caused numerous injuries or deaths, the FDA can take action to force a product off the market.