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Shape up, chaotic health food sector told
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08:10, June 02, 2009

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The chaotic health food market would be closely supervised and managed under a draft regulation released by the State Council.

"The regulation has been formulated to ensure citizens' health and life safety, and to strictly monitor the health food industry," said the draft regulation issued by the State Council Legislative Affairs Office late on Sunday.

Under the draft, market access would be tightened for health food products, which could include bee glue, spirulina or any foods with vitamin and mineral substance.

Heath food must be examined and approved by the State Food and Drug Administration (SFDA) and acquire a registration certificate before entering the market.

The SFDA would evaluate and examine the application of a health food in terms of safety, functionality and quality standard. The authority would not issue the registration certificate for those fail to meet the requirements, it said.

The draft stipulates the producer is responsible for the authenticity of the health food's labels and instruction leaflets, which should clearly state suitable and inappropriate consumers, as well as its function components and contents.

The ads of health food should be true and lawful, and cannot not contain exaggerated or false content, or claim the products can prevent or cure illness.

The draft said that health food should not be intended to cure disease and should not pose any acute, sub-acute or chronic hazard to the human body. It also strengthened requirements on production and sales.

The authority has detailed punishment in accordance with the Food Safety Law, and planned to establish a health food recall system.

The Food Safety Law took effect yesterday after three years of drafting and review.

According to the draft regulation, health food refers to specific foods legally approved to be beneficial to health.

Wang Dahong, secretary general of China Healthcare Association, said: "The draft regulation stipulates SFDA should be in charge of both supervision and management of health food market. This is revolutionary because it prevents overlapping functions of departments."

"The improvement of health food law system will stimulate more investment and consolidation in the industry," he said.

Fan Qingsheng, a health food expert of SFDA who participated in the writing of the draft regulation, said the new regulation emphasizes the beginning of the process, the approval, while more specific rules on producing and sales will come out later, when a more complete supervision and administration system will lead to a more regular and healthier market of health food.

Fan, also a nutrition and food researcher in Nanchang University, Jiangxi province, said that by making approval standards more strict, the approval rate would be lower, "therefore the safety of products is expected to be improved."

The approval would focus on the examination of materials used in health food and the trueness of the products. "Experts will go to the labs of each product to witness whether its producing conforms to the application files," he said.

He also admitted that China health food market has been chaotic during its development. "That is because we were new and inexperienced, and we have to grope our way."

He said problems in the production process and sales were serious. In the present market, companies with approval to produce a specific health food sell their brands to smaller companies that produce fake or bad-quality products under the brands, and thus cause confusion for consumers to choose real products.

"For these problems, we are considering making new rules in the future," he said.

Sourc: China Daily

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