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Peering into Asia's health claim progression

By RJ Whitehead , 07-Sep-2012

Dr Rajeshwar Smarta: “This dialogue forms a process of trust.
Dr Rajeshwar Smarta: “This dialogue forms a process of trust."

In a freewheeling panel discussion during the second afternoon of the Vitafoods Asia nutraceuticals and supplements show, regulations in food and packaging claims came under the spotlight.

The session was hosted by EAS Strategic Advice in the wake of the announcement that the 10 nations of the ASEAN trade block had agreed in principle to impose uniform standards legislation. The hope is now that lawmakers in each of the countries will make these regulations statutory by 2015. The Brussels-based consultancy was instrumental in advising on the legislation.

Moderated by Simon Pettman, director of EAS, and featuring a panel of three specialists, the debate looked at the different approaches Asian nations have been taking to regulation.

According to Dr Rajeshwar Smarta, founder of Interlink, a Mumbai-based pharmaceutical consultancy, a largely self-regulated industry would be ideal to instill greater trust among consumers while educating them at the same time. “This dialogue forms a process of trust. But the regulators are not looking at the future market; they are mostly looking at the present and the past, which means [food companies] must work around claims legislation.”

Personalised approach

Katrina Diamonon, consumer insight analyst at Datamonitor Australia, also stressed the need for the food industry to generate public trust and acceptance towards label claims as current processes do not work towards this end.

“Governments need to take a more personalised approach because the one-size-fits-all policy is not going anywhere. However, government buy-in for this is fundamental because public bodies are more highly trusted than private companies’ claims.”

Offering advice to businesses planning for the future in terms of marketing and claims strategies, Dr Liu Jing of the Chinese Nutritional Society, issued suggestions based on Chinese conventions: “The government and the industry must look at changing the way health claims are made so that there is a closer link between both food and medicinal properties.”

This, she explained, is especially the case in China, with its long tradition of serving foods that also act as medicines, adding: “Different mixtures of herbs can serve different medicinal functions. This will also result in improved public health.”

Diamonon then remarked on the importance for regulators to understand the differences within markets, and for companies to approach these strategically, while Smarta called for increased consumer protection, along with safer, better-quality products, in India.

“This will fit in with self-regulation, but how the industry approaches its policing is very important.”

Held in Hong Kong over three days and covering the nutraceuticals, functional foods and dietary supplements industries, Vitafoods closes the doors on its second year later today.

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