Surge in food supplements notified to safety body

There has been a 300% increase in the number of food supplements notified to the Food Safety Authority of Ireland in the last 10 years — from 700 in 2007 to over 2,500 last year.

There has also been a significant increase in the number of food supplement notifications needing a more detailed examination to see if they pose a safety risk for consumers.

The FSAI found that over 95% of the drops, tablets or powders, needed to be examined because of the high vitamin or mineral content.

Under food law, all food supplements marketed in Ireland for the first time must be notified to the FSAI.

“We are concerned about the growing number of these products and, in particular, the safety of vulnerable groups of the population in Ireland, including children, pregnant women and older people,” said the FSAI chief executive, Dr Pamela Byrne.

The FSAI’s scientific committee has published a report setting new “tolerable” upper limits for vitamins and minerals to safeguard health and will be developing a guidance document.

The report outlines a process that the food supplement industry can use to establish maximum safe levels for 21 of the 30 vitamins and minerals permitted in food supplements in Ireland.

Dr Byrne said it was incumbent on the food supplement industry to take the new guidance on board, reformulate their products accordingly, and provide labels that consumer can easily understand.

Our advice for the general public regarding taking food supplements is that it is not necessary to take food supplements to maintain a healthy lifestyle.

The FSAI recommends a well-balanced diet with plenty of fruit and vegetables and plenty of exercise.

The only food supplements recommended by the FSAI are 400ug of folic acid per day for women who are sexually active and 5ug of vitamin D3 per day for all infants from birth to 12 months.

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