1800 firms operating in sector

8/10 Italians take supplements & eat functional foods despite regulatory threat

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

The total Italian market is estimated at more than €2bn making it one of the largest in Europe.
The total Italian market is estimated at more than €2bn making it one of the largest in Europe.

Related tags: Folic acid, Nutrition

The Italian health food market is booming – 80% of Italians consume food supplements or functional foods – but regulation threatens a sector comprised of 1800 firms, a congress has been told.

The total Italian market is estimated at more than €2bn making it one of the largest in Europe, with food supplements alone worth about €1.2bn according to market data from trade group Federsalus.

But regulatory ambiguity could thwart growth, Teresa Minero, vice president of the Italian branch of the International Society for Pharmaceutical Engineering (ISPE) at IPACK-IMA, said in Milan last week.

“Ginseng is considered a food in some countries and a pharmaceutical product in others. This confusion causes commercial headaches for operators, as well as problems of perception for the final consumer," ​she said by way of example.

Minero’s statements came at an ISPE-sponsored debate at the event focused on EU versus member state legal issues that affect products like omega-3s, folic acid, caffeine, ginseng, probiotics, yeast, vitamins and minerals.  

Forza in Italy according to Federsalus

  • Vitamins and minerals, 
  • Probiotics 
  • Throat and cough treatments
  • Energy supplements
  • Weight loss
  • Cholesterol control
  • Sold mainly in pharmacies, these kinds of products are now regularly recommended by doctors to patients. One out of three specialist doctors and more than half of GPs advise their use. 

QC (quality control) issues were also debated. “It is strategically important for companies to monitor the entire chain of development, production and control: From the farming and extraction of vegetable substances to the formulation, production and distribution of the product,”​ said Minero.

“Safety and sustainability depend also on the processing and packaging used, which is why this conference is taking place in the context of the IPACK-IMA fair, which is the most authoritative international showcase for these technologies."

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