Vital Health Foods, a 64-year-old Cape-based manufacturer, said strong consumer demand could be in peril if companies were not able to improved production methods that often left products on shelves deficient in labeled active nutrients, or contaminated with unauthorized substances.
The company urged manufactures to voluntarily adopt Good Manufacturing Processes (GMPs) to avoid contamination scandals like that which occurred recently when four botanical ‘libido boosters’ where found to be spiked with non-permitted pharmaceutical ingredients.
“We must, by law, test each and every batch for ingredient purity and safety,” said George Grieve, managing director of Vital Health Foods.
“We also voluntarily test the finished product. This eliminates the risk of unwanted, unsafe and unidentified components being present in the finished product.”
South Africa has been considering beefing up its GMP regulations, but no changes have yet entered the country’s law books.
CAMs are consumed by upwards of 40% of populations in some countries like the US, according to consumer surveys, with over half the populations in other countries like the EU, the Netherlands and Belgium would pay more for insurance to include them.
Vital Health Food said 70% of South Africans will consult a CAM practitioner before seeking mainstream medical advice.
“In general, herbal remedies and dietary supplements are not covered by the strict regulations that govern pharmaceutical drugs,” said the company’s quality assurance manager, Debbie Flandorp.
“Quality is inconsistent even among popular commercial formulations – with tests showing that the concentrations of active ingredients vary greatly from the amounts listed on the packaging.”
“Within the supplement industry, there is little control in respect of quality standards. This is mainly due to the fact that even though legislation is imminent, a regulatory framework hasn’t yet been published.”
Flandorp said the sector was to a degree a victim of its own success because it attracted opportunistic players.
“Regrettably, due to the fact that the health industry is showing good growth, it opens up the opportunity for manufacturers to sell products that do not meet quality and safety criteria, especially if their focus is profit and not the improvement of health.”
“Since legislation does not require testing of products to be certified safe from potentially harmful substances, consumers are left none the wiser.”
She added: “Ethical companies should display their commitment to product quality and safety by voluntarily adopting quality and safety standards.”