Food law regulates the content, labelling and promotion of food products, including food supplements.
There is no requirement for food supplements to be licensed or registered with the UK Government. However, all foods sold within the UK must comply with all relevant food law.
The Food Safety Act deals with all stages of food production and marketing, from farming, hygiene and preparation, through to consumption. Food is defined (in line with the General Food Law Regulation) as “any substance or product, whether processed, partially processed or unprocessed, intended to be, or reasonably expected to be ingested by humans”, which includes food supplements.
The Food Safety Act establishes requirements for food safety and places the responsibility for this on the businesses that grow, produce, process, store, distribute and sell food. The main responsibilities of food businesses under the Act are to:
- Ensure that nothing is included or removed from food, or used to treat food, which would be damaging to the health of the people who will eat it;
- Ensure that food served or sold is of the nature, substance and quality demanded by consumers;
- Ensure that all food is labelled, advertised and presented in a way that is not misleading.
The three main offences under the Act are:
- rendering food injurious to health;
- selling, to the purchaser’s prejudice, food which is not of the nature or substance or quality demanded;
- falsely or misleadingly describing or presenting food.
The Food Supplements Directive lists the vitamins and minerals which are permitted for use in food supplements in the EU, including Northern Ireland. The lists have been amended several times and the safety of the substances on the list has been assessed and approved by the European Food Safety Authority (EFSA). The amendments to the lists of substances permitted for use in food supplements can be found on the Commission website.
The vitamins and minerals and their chemical forms which are permitted for use in food supplements in Great Britain have been listed in Schedule I and II of The Nutrition (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) 2019. This list can also be accessed from the Great Britain register on the addition of vitamins and minerals and of certain other substances to foods (Great Britain VMS Register).
Currently the UK industry works to the safe upper levels (SULs) established in the 2003 report by the Expert Group on Vitamins and Minerals and the EU Nutrient Reference Values (NRV) of vitamins and minerals.
The Food Information for Consumers Regulation regulates labelling requirements and other information which must be made available to consumers at point of purchase. It applies to all foods, including food supplements, sold within the EU, including Northern Ireland. The Food (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) 2019 and The Food (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) 2020 regulate labelling requirements for all foods, including food supplements, sold within Great Britain.
The Nutrition and Health Claims Regulation (EC/1924/2006) was implemented to improve consumer protection in labelling claims. All foods which make claims, including food supplements, sold within the EU, including Northern Ireland, must comply with this Regulation. All foods which make claims, including food supplements, sold within Great Britain must comply with The Nutrition (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) 2019 and The Nutrition (Amendment etc) (EU Exit) 2020.