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Headlines > Regulation

Walmark to sue Romanian government agency over “unjustified” bullying allegations

By Shane Starling+

20-Feb-2013
Last updated on 20-Feb-2013 at 15:13 GMT

Walmark says it will take legal action against a Romanian government agency after one of its officials publicly criticised the eastern European supplement giant’s marketing and market share-gaining methods.

Dr Tatiana Onisei, from Romania’s National Office of Medicinal, Aromatic Plants and Bee Products (IBA) said Walmark was “arrogant”, and exploited Romania’s complex legal set-up for different kinds of products and marketing mediums to bully competitors from market via complaints.

Dr Onisei has lodged complaints of her own over Walmark cranberry supplement marketing with various Romanian departments including the National Audiovisual Council (NAC) over TV adverts and the Ministry of Health (MoH). She is awaiting a response.

Walmark south-eastern Europe regional director, Catalin Vicol, said it was inappropriate for a government official to go public with unresolved and unjustified concerns and hence was enacting legal action to rectify the matter.

Reputation

“Walmark Romania will take all the legal actions in order to protect its image on the Romanian market,” Vicol said.

He noted that while IBA is responsible for the registration of most plant-based food supplements on safety grounds, the NAC and MoH regulates marketing of such products.

Vicol added: “IBA accusations made against Walmark Romania, although not proven and not supported with evidence are not justified as long as IBA is not an authority of control on food supplement market in Romania.”

The IBA has complained about Walmark marketing like this now discontinued campaign for its URINAL cranberry product for making unauthorised UTI health claims. It says Walmark complained about competitors for making similar claims.

“Walmark Romania is expressing its concern regarding IBA‘s – and Mrs Onisei‘s – tone of voice used in its official communication with a company that is the food supplements leader on the Romanian market since 2005 and that always tried to clarify situations by providing answers whenever requested and respecting the legislation by all means.”

Vicol wondered why Dr Onisei was complaining about his company when its products had been on the market for 10 years and no sanctions had been imposed against it by the MoH.

Walmark has not received any control or penalty from the Romanian authorities entitled to control food supplement labels and audio-visual communication...[yet] the IBA continues its unfair and intimidating ‘battle’.”

Vicoli disputed Dr Onisei in noting there existed two routes to market for botanical supplement products: Via the IBA, which is under the remit of the Ministry of Agriculture, or the MoH.

“If the MoH cannot approve such notifications as IBA claims, why did Walmark Romania not receive any control or penalty in ten years regarding this particular issue?”

IBA has complained about television and press adverts for Walmark’s URINAL range of cranberry products for making non-authorised claims under the EU 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

Dr Onisei previously said: “Walmark is arrogant. They work on the borderline exploiting loopholes in Romanian law. Walmark profits from the lack of cohesion across the departments. They set a bad example for the market.”

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