The French Agency for Food, Environmental and Occupational Health & Safety (ANSES) cited energy drinks, red yeast rice-based food supplements and p-synephrine as examples of its work where guidelines had helped sectors maintain safety.
Since it was begun, the Paris-based agency had received 1500 adverse event reports, with 76% stemming from food supplement issues. Of those one third related to weight-loss, hair health or cholesterol-lowering products. The most common ailments were liver or digestive system problems, along with allergies.
It said the work was necessary amid a food landscape that was increasingly technological and diverse in nature.
“Over the last few decades the range of available foods has greatly expanded, with new productscharacterised by innovative and novel technology, ingredients and formats, including food supplements and fortified foods and beverages (energy drinks, etc.),” the agency wrote in a report.
“The food supplement market in particular has grown exponentially, with turnover of over 1.3 billion euros in 2013.”
It highlighted the rise of the internet as a distribution channel as an example of the need to raise the profile of its nutrivigilance programme, which had been developed in conjunction with authorities in Canada and the US.
“While food safety is highly regulated and monitored, these new products, often perceived as safe by the consumer, can under certain conditions expose them to risksthat we need to be able to identify,” ANSES continued.
“This is the goal of ANSES's nutrivigilance scheme, which is now an integral part of the monitoring schemes set up by the health authorities to protect the health of consumers.”
It is estimated that one in five adults and one in 10 children consume food supplements in some form, including in medical situations. 23% of adults and 12% of children take these products all year round or most of the year.
The agency said healthcare professionals were vital to the scheme’s optimal functioning.
“Today ANSES wishes to stress that, after three years in operation, the nutrivigilance scheme’s effectiveness depends upon the abundance and precision of the data reported,” it said.
“We therefore are asking healthcare professionals to continue contributing, and recommend that during medical consultations they ask patients about their use of food supplements and other special dietary foods.”
“We encourage them to remain vigilant, and to declare all the adverse effects they observe, especially with regard to the two requests currently being examined, on food supplements for pregnant women and for athletes.”
It added: “ANSES wishes to remind consumers that food supplements are not without danger. They should not be used as a substitute for a well-balanced, varied diet, and the advice of a healthcare professional should always be sought when taking them. We also recommend strict compliance with the instructions for use on the label. Extreme caution should also be taken with products promoted as ‘miracle’ cures, or those sold through alternative channels, in particular through the Internet.”