Finland flexes muscle on false health claims

Related tags Health claims Marketing Medicine

Finland's National Food Agency has banned several food supplement
makers from repeat marketing of unsubstantiated claims in a
clampdown on the use of health claims.

Finland's National Food Agency has banned several food supplement makers from making false marketing claims in a clampdown on the use of health claims.

The agency said it had imposed a number of marketing bans over the summer preventing many of the companies from continuing to make references to prevention, treatment or curing of a human disease, or providing misleading information. The products may still be sold and marketed in compliance with the country's Food Act, however.

Finland has stepped up its efforts this year to control the use of health claims. In July it announced the setting up of a network of experts to assess the research-based evidence behind health claims. It has also prepared training and control material for municipal control authorities.

Among the companies pulled up by the agency, some made unsubstantiated claims that products improved performance, increased resistance and had a favourable influence on vital functions.

Products have also been marketed as providing protection against bacteria and viruses. Since some viruses and bacteria cause diseases, the agency said it considers this kind of marketing to attribute properties of preventing a human disease to the foods.

The agency has also found some products claiming to alleviate pain in joints and muscles and provide relief to people suffering from allergies. Such 'medicinal claims' are currently prohibited in the marketing of foodstuffs in Finland, regardless of whether they can be substantiated.

Food marketing is currently governed by Section 6 of the Food Act. A proposed European health claims directive was published in July this year. It has yet to be passed by Parliament and the European Council before it enters into law but this could take place in 2005 and would govern health claims in Finland from then on.

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