Will the New Consumer Protection Act Prevent Harm to Nutritional Supplement Users?(Original Articles)

Will the New Consumer Protection Act Prevent Harm to Nutritional Supplement Users?(Original Articles)

There is no clear distinction between food, supplements and medicines in South Africa. As these are regulated differently, grey areas exist in implementing the legislation, particularly in the supplement industry. The increase in supplement sales in South Africa can be attributed partly to aggressive marketing by manufacturers. Claims made by the companies selling supplements are not always supported by published peer-review evidence. Such claims often go unchecked, resulting in consumers being misled about the role of supplements. Contaminants or adulterants in supplements may also cause insidious effects unrelated to the listed ingredients. The Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA) could promote greater levels of policy development, regulatory enforcement, and consumer education of South Africa’s supplement industry. Nutritional supplement annual retail sales in the USA increased from $8.8 billion in 1994 to $18.8 billion in 2003–an increase of 115%, of which much was spent on ‘sports supplements’. (1,2) South Africa’s supplement turnover was estimated at R1.5 billion per year (Health Product Association Survey 1998-2000) and continues to grow rapidly. (3) The increase in supplement sales is more probably due to aggressive marketing by manufacturers, rather than the development of more effective nutritional supplements. (4) Because of the complex legislation governing supplements in most countries (including South Africa), companies can make unsubstantiated claims about the efficacy of their supplements. (5) Since the accuracy of product labelling often goes unchallenged, effects of the supplement that could be due to contaminants or adulterants might not be reflected on the label. (3,6-8) The management of the supplement industry is in stark contrast to the drug industry, which has strict legislation and control. Divergence between food and drug laws has generated grey areas regarding the ‘voluntary’ declaration of ‘all’ content in a specific nutritional supplement product. This makes the product manufacture chain difficult to deal with or even subject to appropriate law enforcement. Although some consumer protection and anti-doping agencies have requested stricter report requirements for supplement manufacturers and tougher penalties for repeat offenders, legislation is largely unchanged. (9)

Will the New Consumer Protection Act Prevent Harm to Nutritional Supplement Users?(Original Articles)



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