Information on nutritional supplement labels: time for legislation?
Background: Nutritional supplements have received attention both from food manufacturers, as a means of marketing the added value to health; and from consumers, in terms of awareness, education, and improved health. To assist this process, it is important to have specific knowledge and understanding of the claims made on labels of nutritional supplement products used for general, and more specifically, for sports consumers. The industry is not regulated, and therefore the claims that are made may not always be accurate.
Method: The aim was to describe the labelling and claims information on the labels of a select group of nutritional supplements, either manufactured in, or imported into South Africa. Specific predetermined categories of labelling and claims made on the containers were assessed and summarised.
Results: Forty products were selected for analysis, of which 21 (53%) were locally assembled or manufactured products, and 19 (48%), international imported products. Ninety-five per cent of products contained a warning statement on the label. Eighty-five per cent of the nutritional supplement products had a disclaimer on the label. Ninety-eight per cent of the nutritional supplement product labels included some claim on the label.
Conclusion: The following information, in particular, needs to be regulated and enforced as part of the labelling process, to ensure that the consumer can make an informed choice. This includes highlighting the potential for adverse events, encouraging warning statements pertaining to “exclusion of use, and “not a cure for disease states”, and alerting consumers of the potential for the presence of banned substances, based on laboratory screen methods.
Keywords: nutritional, supplements, contaminants, claims, legislation, labelling