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Customers should watch out for misleading dietary supplement ads

Update: March, 25/2015 - 09:19

Increasing number of advertising violations for supplements is a headache for authorities and a health concern for customers, Nguyen Thanh Phong of the Food Safety Department tells Kinh Te & Do Thi.

What kind of viola-tions have been made by businesses in dietary supplement advertisements recently?

The number of businesses that violated regulations on supplementary food advertisements increased late last year and earlier this year. The majority of the violations, usually made by both manufacturers and traders, regards advertisement content that has not been approved by the authorised health agencies.

For example, a product was approved for its ability to increase the body's immunity. But when it was advertised, the manufacturers or dealers claimed several other effects that made customers think the product was a panacea. This is a case of obvious violation of laws and must be punished.

In fact, the quality and safety of dietary supplements, in general, is not a major issue, but the exaggerated claims of the food's effects is a major concern. The exaggerated advertisement makes customers believe in the products. The patients should go to hospitals for treatment, but they just use the food supplements. In some cases, they waste a lot of money, but their illnesses take a turn for the worse.

Recently, the authorised agencies imposed several punishments on the violators. But several businesses are deliberately violating advertisement regulations. Do you think the punishment is not strict enough?

The main reason for the violation is that businesses want to sell more and more products. The inspectors of the Ministry of Health and Food Safety Department have discovered several cases of violation and awarded strict punishments. Along with imposition of fines, the licences of the businesses can be revoked and the names of the products violating laws can be published in the media. So, consumers can boycott the products.

However, the inspection staff is still short-staffed as compared to the numbers of businesses involved in selling and manufacturing dietary supplements.

Therefore, we advise consumers to understand the proper usage of dietary supplements. They should not believe those products are panacea.

What measures does the department implement to control the increasing violations?

Under the guideline of the government and health ministry, the department will accelerate inspection work to check the quality of the dietary supplements in general, and the advertisement of the product in particular. The violations will be made public for the people and the authorised agencies. The department will notify the relevant lists of dietary supplements whose advertisement contents are approved. The information and communication ministry's inspectors will be in charge of handling agencies running advertisements that violate regulations. The food safety department will impose punishments on products and businesses that go against regulations. — VNS

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