The Food and Drug Administration is preparing to hold the first in what may be several hearings on the subject of functional foods. The public meeting, scheduled for Dec. 5, is described as a dialogue, though it may result in the agency broadening current regulations to include this class of value-added products. The FDA is going to start basically from scratch, since there is currently no legal definition for a functional or fortified food item. Some experts believe that the FDA might define functional foods using the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act of 1994, due in part to the physical or physiological effects they are purported to bring about. Some industry leaders have called for a system similar to the one the FDA currently uses to weigh qualified health claims.