A Which? report yesterday (23 August) accused some of Europe’s biggest food supplement manufacturers of making “exaggerated, misleading and sometimes unauthorised” claims to promote the alleged health benefits of their products.
It investigated a number of supplements and assessed whether their packaging was in line with the European Food Safety Authority’s regulations. Of more than 44,000 health claims for food supplements that have been submitted to the EU over the past five years, only 248 have so far been authorised, it claimed.
Richard Lloyd, executive director of Which?, said it was “worrying” that some manufacturers are not “playing fair” on the packaging of food supplements, making claims which could leave shoppers “out of pocket”. The report is part of a wider campaign from the watchdog for health claims on food supplements to backed by scientific evidence.
Lloyd added: “Consumers deserve accurate information to base their spending decisions on, particularly in the current economic climate. We would like to see all ambiguous and exaggerated claims completely removed from all food supplement packaging, so consumers can feel confident they are getting a fair deal.”
The Health Food Manufacturers Association, which represents interests of the UK natural health products industry, rejected the findings of reports labelling it is “untrue”.
In a statement it said: “The huge quantity of claims that have been ‘rejected’ is largely a result of EFSA applying an inappropriate pharmaceutical-style assessment to generic health maintenance claims on food ingredients, an approach usually used for assessing illness-related claims on drugs which are obviously completely different”
The statement was backed by both Boots and Seven Seas, who said they were in compliance with all UK and European regulations on the labelling of their products.
A spokeswoman from Seven Seas added: “We believe that the Which? Magazine’s article may confuse consumers with regard to the quality and safety of the food supplements commented on. In fact, the points raised relate solely to product labeling and have no safety implications. Seven Seas believe that the issues raised in the Which? report will not serve to give consumers any additional clarity, but will instead create unnecessary confusion.”
The UK supplement industry was valued at £385m last year according to Which?