BEUC: ‘EU food supplements market is only partially regulated’

BEUC highlights 'flaws in EU and national legislations'. FSE says category is 'extensively' regulated. ©iStock/PushishDonghongsa

Europeans rely ‘more and more’ on food supplements but are being let down by a ‘patchy regulatory network’ governing a market awash with dodgy products and claims, the EU’s premier consumer rights group has found in a sector report.

The European consumer organisation BEUC called for better regulations and policing of those regulations across the EU’s 28 member states for products as varied as food supplements, foods for sports persons, traditional herbal medicines or medical devices.”

It said the market would suffer varying safety standards and product classification strategies” that would create “confusion and unacceptable inequalities” unless:

  • adulteration with medicines and unauthorised substances was addressed.
  • maximum and minimum limits for vitamins and minerals were established.
  • products bore better safety and usage information.
  • an effective reporting system for adverse events was established.
  • claims only permitted if backed by robust science – including botanicals.

“Consumers’ safety can be at risk due to flaws in the EU and national legislations,” BEUC wrote. “They are exposed to potentially serious side effects, misleading information and to the risk of wasting money for products that do not live up to the promises they make.”

BEUC named several examples where safety had been an issue including colloidal silver and silver hydrosol, synephrine, vitamin B3 (nicotinic acid) and DNP and made the point that “natural does not mean safe!” [BEUC emphasis]

“For botanicals in particular, necessary warnings against possible contraindications, interactions and undesirable effects on label – or in information leaflet – are required under the herbal medicine status [the EU Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive] but not when the product is considered a botanical food supplement.”

Beyond food...

Ingrid Atteryd, chair of Brussels-based trade group Food Supplements Europe (FSE) pointed out the science-backed health benefits food supplements brought to Europeans – and highlighted the safety systems enshrined in EU law.

“The existing legal framework in the EU regulates the food supplement category extensively,” Atteryd said. “Not only are all the requirements of food law applied but in the majority of EU member states a notification process is in place to help ensure efficient monitoring of the market and additional regulatory oversight on quality, claims and ingredients. This goes beyond what is required for most food categories.”

FSE backed BEUC’s call for greater regulatory harmony across the 28-member bloc but “to ensure the full functioning of the single market and consistency across the EU.”

It welcomed further discussions under the EU REFIT programme to streamline and improve EU regulations.

EU dis-harmony

The BEUC report highlighted the discrepancies in both ingredient and supplement classification in regard to amino acids – “a debatable category of substances.”

It said amino acid forms were regulated as food supplements in Croatia, Italy and Slovenia.

“Yet amino acids are treated as additives in Germany and as ‘forbidden but tolerated’ substances in The Netherlands (except for methionine). In most of the other EU countries they are not regulated at all.”

BEUC said the 2000+ on-hold botanical claims should not be treated any differently under the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

“The EU should end its special treatment to botanicals and move forward with the claims evaluation.”

The botanicals industry has said such an act would be damaging for both the industry and consumers as it would severley limit product choice and product information.

The full BEUC report is here.

Related News

BASF picks Germany to boost global vitamin A capacity

BASF picks Germany to boost global vitamin A capacity

EU food innovation is under threat from EU regulations, find researchers, but does the real problem lie elsewhere? ©iStock/klenger

German impact study finds EU health claim laws blocking innovation; no excuse for lame marketing, says analyst

'Our findings suggest that challenges related to the NHCR (Article 13.1) seem to discourage innovation activities of participant companies.' ©iStock

Industry poll: Claim wording & transparency greatest EU health claim challenges

A final report on the botanical blockade will be published by the end of 2017 and 'reflections of next steps' will come at the beginning of 2018, the Commission has confirmed. ©Stock/marilyna

Botanicals progress: EU Health Commissioner promises solution in his time

'Continental Europe on the other hand tends to have its own internal influences and therefore consumer trends take longer to become saturated.'  ©iStock

Bulking up: European sports nutrition markets condensed

The opinion on the essential nutrient found in eggs was based on consumption data from 12 national surveys in nine EU countries. ©iStock/PARMOHT

EFSA publishes final choline opinion based on big EU data

'The science alone is not sufficient. You have to link it up from an economic perspective and really show policy makers there are substantial gains to be made,' says trade group. © / stocksnapper

Omega-3 supplementation could save EU €12.9bn a year in heart disease spending

FSE: “This is the result of the demand for easy to use documents to help our members apply the multitude of regulatory requirements applicable to food supplements...“

Euro group launches free QC tools for food supplement, botanical players

European food supplement markets: 2 chairs share their industry wares

European food supplement markets: 2 chairs share their industry wares

FSE: "This marks indeed an important step toward a comprehensive regulatory framework for botanicals..."

France adopts 60% of BELFRIT list for safe botanicals

St John's wort: Lithuania has banned it, but will EU mutual recognition principles come to its rescue along with many others?

Lithuania bans 182 botanicals – or does it?

Related Products

See more related products

Submit a comment

Your comment has been saved

Post a comment

Please note that any information that you supply is protected by our Privacy and Cookie Policy. Access to all documents and request for further information are available to all users at no costs, In order to provide you with this free service, William Reed Business Media SAS does share your information with companies that have content on this site. When you access a document or request further information from this site, your information maybe shared with the owners of that document or information.