Consumer group report finds inadequate labelling for dietary supplements

By Will Chu

- Last updated on GMT

©iStock/utah778
©iStock/utah778

Related tags: Dietary supplement

Quality control performed on commercially available dietary supplements in Poland has uncovered labelling irregularities that include a lack of ingredient information, daily dosage and warnings.

The Trade Inspection Authority found that out of 443 batches of dietary supplements, 89 of these – or 20%--carried information that could mislead consumers as to the products’ properties.

“The quality of dietary supplements was slightly better compared to controls carried out last year,”​ the report stated.

“A previous audit in 2016 questioned 29.9% of a batch of inspected products. This year it was down to 20%.

“Irregularities in the labelling included labels that did not have the required information for proper and rational use of supplements, e.g., no recommendations for intake during the day or any warnings about exceeding the recommended dosage.

“It is also important to note that more often than not the dietary supplements, in particular those for sports nutrition, contained labelling either in Polish or partially in the Polish language.”

Salt content understated

In addition, the audit found in 9 of the 79 supplement samples tested in the laboratory the manufacturers overstated the vitamin and mineral content and understated the salt content.

In an energy supplement examined the caffeine content was found to be 166 milligrams (mg)/3 tablets and 27 mg/ 100 millilitres (ml) of prepared liquid.

The figures found were some way off the claimed 192 mg/3 tablets and 32 mg/100 ml of liquid prepared in accordance with the instructions.

In an energy gel supplement investigators found taurine content to be 682mg/sachet, a value that did not comply with the 1000mg/sachet claimed on the packet.

The Trade Inspection Authority, part of the Office of Competition and Consumer Protection, also found a higher salt content (0.071g) in a fast gel energy supplement, which displayed a value of 0.04g on its labelling.

More worryingly, the auditors also found an undeclared ingredient – sorbic acid and its salts – in one herbal supplement.

The audit, performed in the Q2 of 2017, focused on 80 businesses across Poland that had previously received complaints. Inspectors also checked specialist shops as well as those businesses that sold online.

Other examples of irregularities found in the supplement batch, worth €14,500 (60,200 PLN), included information contained on one website, which unlawfully referred to supplements that “aided treatment of liver diseases”.

Caffeine-containing products failed to contain the warning: “Not recommended for children or pregnant women”.

A supplement containing tartrazine did not contain information on the possible adverse effects on activity and attention in children.

Continued monitoring justified

Expiry dates were also under review as it was discovered that 9 batches of expired products were available at 4 shops.

In 16 cases, manufacturers had failed to notify the Chief Sanitary Inspector about new supplements.

As a result of the audit, businesses were instructed to withdraw supplements which failed to meet regulatory requirements.

The Trade Inspection Authority issued 6 decisions on financial penalties for incorrect labelling, 6 penalty notices, and sent 54 notices to sanitary supervision authorities.

“The audit showed weaknesses in online store operations that involve incorrectly presenting products on websites that did not provide consumers with information before making the final purchasing decision as required by law,”​ the report concluded.

“By making these purchases online, consumers have been deprived of relevant information such as the list of ingredients or how the product should be administered.

“The scale of the irregularities detected indicates the legitimacy of continued monitoring in the area of dietary supplement marketing.”

Full details of The Trade Inspection Authority’s report can be found here​ (Polish only)

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1 comment

labelling of supplement ingredients

Posted by Anna Jacobs,

The misleading labelling of ingredients in supplements is becoming very dangerous indeed.

I found that 'citric acid' in Vitamin C is corn/maize derived, and I'm highly intolerant of corn/maize. When I stopped taking them I felt so much better and my blood pressure went down several points.

One brand of soluble aspirin in the UK had one list of ingredients on the outside packet and a different list inside. On the outside, maize starch was called 'pre-gelatinised starch' - whoever heard of that one? - and inside it was 'maize starch'. Now that is weird, is it not? The pharmacist who checked it out made a big fuss with the company, but I bet they paid no attention.

It is dangerous not to state the derivation of contents or to give them fancy names, and with the increase in food intolerances, the producers of medicines/pills should be held to account as well for their labelling.

I have to find out exact contents to save my own life, and en route I've surprised doctors and pharmacists with what I've found with their help.

I am disgusted by Big Pharma and only sorry that I need their products thanks to an impaired digestive tract.

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