The German Society for Phytotherapy – Gesellschaft für Phytotherapie (GPT) publishes a new position paper on the status of food supplements.

We summarize our views on the factual and regulatory reorganization as well as the proposed measures to improve and assure the quality of NEMs. [The long version of the statement can be found at]

The position paper doubts a consistent benefit of food supplements for consumers and cites risks as evidence, such as a frequently occurring lack of quality or incorrect declaration of ingredients. Misleading health-related advertising is also criticised, as hardly any products have a European label (health claim) for this. The position paper considers the drug-like dosage forms as a violation of the EU Regulation 1169/2011 Fairness of Information Practice. The German Food Supplements Regulation (NemV), which is responsible for this, needs to be amended. Neither the presentation, nor the labelling, nor the form as tablets or capsules were appropriate to distinguish them from medicinal products, in order to protect consumers from a false attribution or even confusion. In particular, herbal medicinal products subject to the Medicinal Products Act run the risk of being mistaken for food supplements and vice versa, e.g. if they contain peppermint oil or ginger or lavender.

Due to multiple shortcomings in the tested food supplements (incorrect content values, contamination, false declarations), it is to be assumed that product analyses are not carried out very carefully by some manufacturers or that their results are not taken into account. The GPT therefore demands a more transparent and significantly intensified quality control of food supplements by the national food control authorities or state-authorised notified bodies.

If no substantial improvements will occur despite of stricter monitoring of the products, the GPT pleads for a series of further regulatory and verification measures. These could include:

- establishment of a publicly accessible register of test results

- mandatory authorization of food supplements

- prohibition of marketing if manufacturers repeatedly bring problematic food supplements onto the market;

- application of so-called NutriVigilance

Finally, the GPT expresses the hope that food supplements with health claims will be precisely declared as health-promoting foods in the future and thereby will be better recognizable as such. Problems such as advertising-related misconceptions, possible malnutrition, overdoses or interactions with medicinal products then would occur less frequently in connection with food supplements in future.

Detmar Jobst, Andreas Hensel, Karin Kraft