by Gia Loc
HCM CITY (VNS) — Health experts including doctors should be required to provide specific counselling on proper use of food supplements in order to avoid any damage that these can cause, experts said at a conference last Saturday.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, deputy director of the Viet Nam Food Administration under the Health Ministry, said right understanding and proper use of food supplements was vital to a person's health.
The conference on food supplements was organised by the Viet Nam Food Administration in co-operation with the Lao Dong (Labour) Newspaper.
Phong said that proper use of food supplements was a good preventive measure against various illnesses, but health experts including doctors had a very important role to play in helping consumers learn how this could be done.
He said existing regulations would be amended to add counseling on proper use of food supplements to a doctor's duties.
Dr Le Van Truyen, former deputy minister of health, said the network of pharmacies in the country should be used effectively to help provide right knowledge on food supplements to consumers. He said this had to be done because most Vietnamese people still had the habit of consulting pharmacists before they go to doctors or hospitals.
The use of this network for providing specific advice on food supplements had proved effective in many countries, he said.
Truyen also called for tighter monitoring of advertisements promoting food supplements.
Phong said false or exaggerated claims in advertisements relating to food supplements accounted for 53 per cent of violations recorded in the first ten months of this year.
Nguyen Manh Hung, vice chairman and general secretary of the Viet Nam Standardization and Consumers Association, said advertisements of many food supplements in the market carried false information or exaggerated their benefits, leading consumers to believe that they are wonderful remedies for all diseases.
In this connection, the association received many complaints from consumers about product quality, Hung said.
For instance, one consumer saw a TVShopping channel advertisement on Dan Sam Tea that claimed it could treat high blood pressure. After drinking the tea, her blood pressure went up further. Hung said there had been many instances of people's health conditions worsening after taking advertised supplements.
He said health experts had warned that food supplements could cause allergies and even lead to deaths in worst case scenarios.
Trieu said relevant authorities should co-operate with media more closely in order to control advertising content.
He said merely requiring or encouraging manufacturers and distributors to be honest in their advertising of food supplements was not enough for consumers to develop a right understanding on their use.
Phong said although the advertising content of products and services including food supplements was examined and approved by relevant authorities, the media, including newspapers and television, had to be more careful in scrutinizing it and exposing any mistakes.
The manufacturers and distributors should realise that false and exaggerated advertising not only harms consumers' health but also reduces public trust in food supplements, which could inflict economic damage, he added.
Phong said the market of food supplements has developed rapidly in the country over the last 12 years, with the number of products increasing from several hundred to more than 10,000 now. Sixty per cent of these products are made in Viet Nam.
As of 2012, there were 1,781 enterprises producing food supplements in the country.
Trieu suggested that authorities study the management of food supplements in other countries and find ways to develop a healthy market as well as healthy practices.
He said Viet Nam had a large number of medicinal plants that could be used to produce food supplements. The nation was yet to take full advantage of this precious resource, he said, calling for greater co-operation between scientists, pharmacists, doctors and manufacturers in the production of domestic food supplements.
Enterprises already engaged in making food supplements should upgrade and use advanced technology in their operations, Trieu said. — VNS