Latin America, harmonised regulation needed

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Dietary supplements, Dietary supplement, Codex alimentarius, Latin america

Last week's Codex meeting made significant progress in its bid to
set global standards on supplements but in Latin America
regulations are still variable and closer collaboration will be
necessary to improve regional trade, a recent conference heard.

Last week's Codex meeting made significant progress in its bid to set global standards on supplements but in Latin America regulations are still variable and closer collaboration will be necessary to improve regional trade, a recent conference heard.

The first Latin American Conference on Food Supplements, held in Rio de Janeiro last month, focused on current regulations in the region - often inappropriately restrictive or not enforced. While many Latin American countries are now seeking to establish or improve their own regulations, this is often without sufficient access to information on the approaches being adopted by other countries in the region or to the experiences of other regions of the world.

Conference organiser IADSA​ (International Alliance of Dietary Supplements Associations) said the meeting, which included more than 200 experts from governments, scientific bodies and industry, including Codex Alimentarius, the European Commission, the USA's Office of Dietary Supplements and Japan's Health and Nutrition Foods Association, showed a clear demand for increased collaboration and consultation from the 17 regulators of the participating Latin American countries and other key regions of the world.

While the work of Codex, designed to establish global trading standards for the food industry, proved its value this week after a breakthrough on the draft guidelines for vitamins and minerals, its slow speed of operation is seen as a major obstacle to resolving the many issues currently facing Latin American nations.

According to Loren Israelsen, executive director of the US-based Utah Natural Products Alliance, the Canadian model (Canada's innovative new Natural Health Products regulation) presented by Dr Phil Waddington may offer a useful framework for other governments and regulators to consider. This model has taken into account the regulatory experience from many other countries and has attempted to improve on the strengths and recognised weaknesses of these other systems, he said.

"I believe many countries are now closely watching this system, and if it proves to be successful, it could likely become a model worth emulating elsewhere,"​ continued Israelsen.

He added that there is great opportunity in Latin America to increase horizontal collaboration and cooperation and to allow free trade of dietary supplements within Latin America. "This would promote the safe and beneficial use of dietary supplements, encourage growth of Latin American dietary supplement manufacturers and producers, while preventing false claims and unsafe products. Clearly, the countries of Latin America are better off working together than separately on this important issue."

Other speakers confirmed this view, pointing out that food supplements have an essential role in the years ahead if the world is to manage nutritional needs of undernourished populations and the economics of health care of longer living populations.

The conference also confirmed the global trend to reassess the regulation of dietary supplements in view of the growing public interest and use of supplements.

It included discussion of new challenges for risk assessors and regulators, with reports from the EU and the USA, aswell as Brazil, Mexico, Peru and Uruguay. Three ministries of health from Latin America gave their views on health claims - Argentina, Brazil and Chile - and were followed by the experiences in the development of Canada's innovative new Natural Health Products regulations by the Office of Natural Health Products and a presentation of Japan's approach to claims by the Japan Health and Nutrition Foods Association.

Similar conferences have been held by IADSA in Africa and Asia in the last two years, resulting in action programmes that have equipped the region's national governments to formulate compatible regulations, learning from the views and experiences of their neighbours and other regions of the world while also addressing any differences in the cultural and nutritional needs of the countries' populations.

The next IADSA Regional Conference will take place on 26-27 May in Prague, Czech Republic and will focus on food supplements following the expansion of the European Union.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Suppliers

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