Dutch authorities hold two suspects for illegal supplement trafficking

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

Authorities and international agencies have been getting tougher on the illegal trade of herbal weight loss supplements - many of which have been found to contain illegal pharmaceutical ingredients. (Photo: iStock).
Authorities and international agencies have been getting tougher on the illegal trade of herbal weight loss supplements - many of which have been found to contain illegal pharmaceutical ingredients. (Photo: iStock).

Related tags Pharmacology Pharmaceutical drug Sibutramine

Two people suspected of trafficking illegal slimming products containing sibutramine are being held in the Netherlands after authorities performed a series of house searches.

The intelligence and investigation branch of the The Netherlands Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority (known as the NVWA IOD) arrested the two suspects for suspected trade in banned slimming products on Monday (January 23).

Searches of a house in Nijmegen and a house in The Hague resulted in detectives finding dissolving tablets and branded packaging, they said.

In a release on it’s website​, the NVWA IOD confirmed the searches and arrests came after an investigation NVWA IOD that was led by a prosecutor from Functioneel Parket, a special operating part of the Public Prosecution Service that is dedicated combating complex fraud and environmental crime.

The notice added that products were found to contain sibutramine, which has been banned since 2010.

Criminal investigation

An NVWA spokesperson confirmed to NutraIngredients that the criminal case commenced after a women died last year. As a result of the death, the NVWA issued a warning​ regarding slimming products. This led to an ongoing investigation after a number of consumers reported products that had given them strange side-effects – including heart complaints, anxiety and dry mouth. Such side-effects are associated with the banned pharmaceutical ingredient sibutramine, said the NVWA – noting that the authorisation in Europe was revoked after links to serious heart conditions.

Inspectors from NVWA analysed these products and found, without exception, that they contained sibutramine that was not declared on the packaging.

Investigations by the team found that products were mostly sold primarily online via Facebook, Instagram and auction sites. NVWA added that illegal slimming products have so for not been found in retail shops.

Ongoing issue

As far back as 2014, Dutch authorities were warning or, and tracking, slimming supplements laced with pharmaceutical active ingredients. Indeed, a joint report​ from NVWA, the National Institute for Public Health and the Environment (RIVM), Wageningen University and the Ministry of Health, Welfare and Sport Nutrition, Health Protection and Prevention Department at the Hague, found 24 out of 50 samples screened between August 2004 and May 2013 contained active pharmacological ingredients (APIs). 

More recently, researchers in France found that more than half of 'so-called 100% natural botanical slimming supplements' are adulterated with


unlabelled pharmaceuticals. The team found 56% of the 164 samples tested were adulterated​ with active pharmaceutical ingredients, including sibutramine (found in 26% of all products), despite claiming to be ‘100% natural’.

In the UK, the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) last year warned consumers ​– especially young women – off buying weight loss pills and supplements, most of which it said are unlicensed and potentially dangerous to health.

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