Nguyen Thanh Phong, director of the Viet Nam Food Administration (VFA), spoke with Suc khoe va Doi song (Health and Life) newspaper about violations made by businesses that advertise dietary supplements.
Could you discuss specifically about violations in advertising dietary supplements, which account for 80 per cent of all food safety violations?
Among violations of dietary supplements that authorities recently detected, violations of advertising accounted for the highest percentage.
The majority of violations are advertisements without official confirmation from any health authority, in which advertising content has not been approved by the authorised health agency; or labelling of products are not in conformity with state regulations.
In addition, the printed advertisements of dietary supplements on leaflets or advertising on unlicensed websites, even on social networks, are pressing issues.
I was informed that many people advertised and sold hang xach tay, or foreign goods, which were not officially imported and often brought into the country by someone who had travelled overseas. I have to reaffirm that the selling of hang xach tay on the market in any form is a violation of law because they should only be used for individual purposes.
Regarding mistakes found in dietary supplements, the VFA has withdrawn 11 food safety certifications and five advertising certifications since the beginning of this year. The VFA also recalled and destroyed many types of goods that do not meet safety standards, as well as temporarily halted the circulation of 49 batches of food products and asked relevant agencies to handle 15 cases.
The Administration has also worked with other agencies to destroy 230kg of foods that violate food safety regulations.
What are the causes of the violations?
First of all, I have to confirm that dietary supplements play a role in maintaining good health, but they are not panaceas.
However, many enterprises want to sell more profitable products, so they deliberately exaggerate claims about the supplement's effect. The exaggerated advertisement mislead a lot of customers.
We have discovered a lot of violations through our inspections. Therefore, we asked manufacturers and distributors to indicate that their product is not medicine and can not be used as a substitute for actual medicine in the labelling and packaging of dietary supplements.
As a state manager for food safety, I admit our weakness in inspections leading to the occurrence of this situation.
The administration will strictly deal with food safety violations in the future. Accordingly, along with the imposition of fines, the licences of businesses can be revoked and the names of products violating laws can be published in the media.
The VFA will also coordinate with the media and advertisers to tighten regulations on advertisements for dietary supplements.
It's not only violations in advertising dietary supplements that have been found, as a lot of fake dietary supplements have also been discovered by agencies. What do you think?
The general rule is that when a product becomes popular on the market, many people will take advantage of that product to produce fake or imitations. Dietary supplements are no exception. This is a violation of the law and should be strictly punished.
Some blame these violations on the fact that state management agencies lack specific regulations for producing dietary supplements. What's your opinion about this?
In food production, including dietary supplements, the Government has regulations covering three areas: production infrastructure, human resources and technical facilities. Like 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 Practices (GMP). The Ministry of Health is working with the relevant agencies to issue GMP regulations for production of dietary supplements in Viet Nam.
According to the roadmap, Viet Nam will adopt this standard for dietary supplements by 2017 to 2018 at the latest. — VNS