The Ministry of Health will act against companies that make unbacked claims about dietary supplements, head of the Food Safety Department Nguyen Thanh Phong told Hai Quan (Customs) newspaper.
What percentage of the 10,000 dietary supplements sold in Viet Nam are of good quality?
In principle, any dietary supplement licensed to be sold in the market is of good quality. However, in my opinion, of the current 10,000 products in the marketplace, only 50-60 per cent are accepted by customers. The remainder will disappear from the shelves as they are less popular.
Some claim that there is a lack of special production regulations for dietary products. What do you think?
In food production, including dietary supplements, the Government has regulations covering three areas - production infrastructure, human resources and technical facilities. Unfortunately, like in the rest of the world, Viet Nam has no regulations concentrating on the production of dietary supplements. There are only instructions on the standards for Good Manufacturing Products (GMP).
At present, the Ministry of Health is working with agencies to issue GMP regulations for production.
What do you think about corruption in the assessment of dietary supplements?
Corruption, if any, is a violation of the law and needs to be strictly punished.
However, the assessment of dietary supplements is carried out at many different laboratories. Furthermore, assessors must keep the samples, which are sealed so that they can be rechecked if disputes or complaints occur.
Accordingly, management agencies, such market watch and those in the health sector, can randomly take a product, take off its identifying labels, and send it to laboratories for assessment. If one laboratory comes up with a finding that contradicts other laboratories, the result will be re-checked. With such strict regulations, I believe there is no room for mistakes.
Many people are concerned about advertisements for dietary supplements that bend the truth. What steps can be taken to deal with this?
More than 53 per cent of violations are advertisement-related. This means advertising the power of a product that has no official confirmation from any Vietnamese health authority.
In the first six month of this year, the fine for such violations amounted to VND1.6 billion (US$73,400) collected from 77 offending companies. The reason for this situation, I admit, is due the lack of care shown by the Ministry of Health in inspecting and checking.
In future, the Food Safety Department will take stricter action towards such violations, including heavier fines, withdrawing business licences and naming-and-shaming companies through the mass media. We will also work closely with media and advertisers to tighten regulations on advertisements for dietary supplement. — VNS