The U.S. Food and Drug Administration is stuck using crude tools to measure the benefits of food, drugs and supplements and needs a whole new set of standards, a panel of experts said on Wednesday.

Relying on so-called biomarkers is confusing the entire process of drug development, the public and doctors alike, they said.

The FDA also needs to use the same strict standards for assessing health claims of food and supplements as it does for drugs, said the panel appointed by the Institute of Medicine, which advises the federal government.

The committee recommended a new framework the FDA could use for judging studies that companies provide to support health and safety claims for their products.

“Congress may need to strengthen FDA authority to accomplish this goal,” the institute’s report reads.

The Obama administration is tackling the issue of food and health on several fronts. On Tuesday, first lady Michelle Obama released a 70-point plan for reducing childhood obesity, including a call for marketing healthier food. [ID:nN11109059]

The committee’s report focuses on biomarkers, which can include measures as simple as temperature. Common biomarkers include levels of cholesterol and blood sugar.

Drugs to treat diabetes are often approved simply because they lower blood sugar and heart drugs can win FDA approval because they lower cholesterol. But the report said this does not mean they make patients healthier.