NNFA Japan Urges Japan To Take "Strategic Approach" In Regulating Names Of Foods And Dietary Supplements

The Natural Nutritional Foods Association is working for better dietary supplement labeling in Japan.

This is reminiscent of recommendations by the IOM Committee on Complementary and Alternative Medicine to further strengthen dietary supplement regulation in the U.S. Of note:

Recently, the Japanese Ministry of Health, Labor and Welfare (MHLW) announced that it had requested that marketers of "health food" products, including dietary supplements, change certain product names that suggest a health effect (for example, treat allergies or lower cholesterol). The companies, some of whom are category leaders in the Japanese market, had until the end of May to change the names.

NNFA Japan, a trade organization representing more than 100 manufacturers of dietary supplements and other natural products, believes this is the wrong approach and does not address the needs of consumers to learn about the products they are buying.

"Many foods and dietary supplements have health benefits that are well documented in the scientific literature," said Randy Dennin, Chairman of NNFA Japan. "If label claims regarding health benefits were allowed, even if only for those products where the scientific evidence is the strongest, then manufacturers would not need to resort to 'creative' names to inform consumers what their products are and their intended use."

Dennin also pointed out that compounding the name-change issue is that the MHLW has not established clear criteria to define what would make a product name unacceptable.

A better solution, the association suggests, is that the MHLW look to the U.S. system of allowing health claims for certain conventional food and dietary supplement ingredients that have well-documented health benefits. Such a system, which in the United States is regulated by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA), would allow consumers to make better choices for maintaining and improving their health. Additionally, the MHLW should issue clear guidelines for naming products to eliminate confusion among both manufacturers and consumers.

"To not implement a labeling standard designed to inform consumers at the point of purchase about the scientifically substantiated health benefits a product can convey, deprives them of the ability to make an informed choice," Dennin said. "We urge the MHLW to take a more strategic approach to this issue and look to expanding the ability of companies to make health claims on product labels."

The Natural Products Association (formerly NNFA) is the nation's largest and oldest non-profit organization dedicated to the natural products industry. The association represents nearly 10,000 retailers, manufacturers, wholesalers and distributors of natural products, including foods, dietary supplements, and health/beauty aids.
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