It has been a fascinating week in the supplement industry. We have watched a number of giant brands fight it out with Which? Magazine over misleading health claims and while praising the fact that the FSA have finally taken some action to crack down on the illegal sale of DNP and to raise awareness of the dangers of its use. We had a discussion at the FORZA Technology Centre this week with our local environmental agency regarding DNP. Under the authority of the FSA, local council officers are visiting all UK food supplement companies in search of the illegal, and extremely dangerous, fat-burning drug.
Officers are looking to eradicate the sale of the drug in a bid to prevent any more fatalities occurring through misuse of the banned substance. If you are selling the drug, it would now seem that your days are numbered. Also in the news, Which? Magazine took a swipe at both Vitabiotics and Seven Seas over illegal health claims being made on their packaging. Which? has piggybacked new legislation and taken a cheap shot at two of arguably the biggest brands in the business.
The assumption is that the products are over-stating the capability of their products to improve certain aspects of health or wellbeing. New laws state that only EFSA permitted claims can be made on packaging and, since only a few hundred claims have been approved out of over 10,000 applications, it is no surprise that the marketeers have been left with limited elbow room to work their magic. In simple terms, people have been using food supplements for years and whilst medical data does not always back up the purported effects many people have found them to be extremely effective.
This is so much so that an estimated 38% of the UK population currently uses food supplements. I was at a conference recently hosted by Leatherhead Food Research and one of the guest speakers was Jean Savigny. He is considered a law veteran in EU health claim law and he believes that the whole process of gaining health claims requires a rethink. In fact, during an interview with NutraIngredients, Mr Savigny lights the touchpaper by suggesting a fresh start altogether. If, like me, you are one of the millions of people in the UK that choose to use food supplements for their benefits then I offer you the following thoughts. Firstly, scientific data comes at a great cost - a cost which only the pharmaceutical industry can afford. Also, once any research is undertaken the cost goes up and products become prescription only, taking many of the ingredients out of our grasp. Both of these points are useful to remember next time you hear the boffins in Brussels declaring that supplements don’t have enough scientific data to back up their claims.
Therefore if you plan on buying a food supplement next time you are out shopping, it is important to know that you could do a lot worse than investing in a Seven Seas, Vitabiotics or a Boots product. Like FORZA, these companies carry huge insurance policies that protect the consumers should they have an adverse reaction to any of the ingredients. Top companies test for dosage and ingredient quality, something that is absent with many of the cheap items that you can buy from uninsured and non-regulated companies on Amazon or eBay. Vitabiotics, Seven Seas and many other good supplement companies work to ISO 22000 food safety standards (just as we do at FORZA) and it is these procedures that make such companies trustworthy industry leaders. Which? Magazine took a cheap shot at these companies at a time when the supplement industry is in a transition phase and the law is very grey. I have put together a check list for you so that you know a supplement is safe:
1. Is the brand address and contact details clearly marked on the label?
2. Are the ingredients clearly list in ascending order?
3. Are the recommended daily allowances listed?
4. Is there suitable advice for dosage and directions?
5. Are there any distinguishing marks of quality such as ISO or BRC logos?