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Food supplements from formulation to sale

The market of food supplements does not seem to have entered any crisis. Actually, this sector shows steady – if not growing – sales. In these years, people is looking for more and more wellness, for both body and mind, and to this aim they often use food supplements to support this achievement.

According to the definition reported in the regulations, food supplements are ‘food products intended to integrate the common diet and constituting a concentrated source of nutritional substances, such as vitamins and minerals, or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect, especially but not exclusively amino acids, essential fatty acids, fibres and extracts of herbal origin, both in single-ingredient and multiple-ingredient compounds, in pre-dosed forms.’

Of course, the people using this kind of products daily do not know in details all the mandatory requirements to be complied with to market food supplements.

Let’s try then to explain better the phases preceding the final sale to consumers.

The regulations on food supplements is partly regulated at European level, and partly at national level. It was updated in 2019/2020, and in particular, as of last year, a new online notification system was introduced in Italy, whose use is mandatory for all companies wishing to sell food supplements in Italy.
These companies must have a certification regarding the registration as FBO (Food Business Operator), managed locally; they also need to have a risk management system regulated in their HACCP plan.

As for the products, for their composition it is required to comply with the European and national lists. For vitamins and minerals, the forms admitted and the claims that can be used are detailed in the European regulations, while the admitted amounts are defined at national levels. For ingredients of botanical origin (the so called botanicals) in Italy it is possible to refer to a list reporting every details: botanical name, any restriction and specific physiological effects allowed for the single parts admitted.

The Italian Ministry of Health made also available a list reporting other nutrients and other substances with nutritional or physiological effect that can be added in the composition of food supplements. For each ingredient, warnings and/or indications to be reported in the label, use restrictions and supply limits are also specified.

The labelling of food supplements should also comply with the regulations and include some minimum mandatory information, such as: name of the product, details of the company FBO responsible for the product, net weight, duration and storage conditions, list of the ingredients and the amount for some of them, mandatory standard warnings, precautions and use instructions, country or place of origin (where required).

In addition, labels can also include other optional information. For instance, if appropriately justified, the compliance with the Halal requirements can be claimed, as well as the organic certification of the food supplement. These certifications are of course optional but they can represent an added value for some categories of consumers.
It is therefore evident that before reaching the shelves to be sold, food supplements undergo a thorough assessment to comply with the Italian and European regulations and to ensure safe products to all consumers.

Written by: Federica Montozzi