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Supplement health claims debunked

Supplements are making unproven health claims

Which? thinks supplements shouldn’t make health claims unless they’re backed by scientific evidence. But this isn’t the case. Even though the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) has analysed and rejected many supplement health claims, Which? found plenty of products with these claims still on sale on the high street. 

We also found supplements with potentially unsafe levels of vitamins and minerals without the recommended warnings in place.

How manufacturers get away with it

Keeping these unsubstantiated health claims on supplements isn’t illegal. Manufacturers will only be forced to remove them once the European Commission has taken EFSA’s findings to EU member states to vote on – this will produce a list of accepted and rejected claims. Because of the huge number of claims submitted, completion of this process has been pushed back to the end of 2011.

As for supplements with unsafe high levels, we first raised this issue back in 1995 and the EU Supplements Directive (adopted over 8 years ago) requires maximum levels to be set – but this hasn’t happened.

What needs to happen

Which? chief executive Peter Vicary-Smith says: ‘We’re concerned that people are being taken for a ride, needlessly paying a premium for many products on the basis of health claims on many products that haven’t been backed up by scientific evidence. We want to see the European Commission release a list of accepted and rejected claims as soon as possible, so that consumers won’t continue to be bamboozled by health claims they can’t trust.

‘With many supplements also failing to carry voluntary warnings about high levels of vitamins and minerals you can overdose on, it’s also necessary that safe levels are agreed as soon as possible.”

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