Food law regulates the content, labelling and promotion of food products, including food supplements.
There is no requirement for food supplements to be licenced 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 and falsely or misleadingly describing or presenting food.
The Food Supplements Directive lists the vitamins and minerals which are permitted for use in food supplements. 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 European Commission has not yet begun this work and currently the UK industry works to the safe upper levels (SULs) established by 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.
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 must comply with this Regulation.