Since entering Vietnam ten years ago, food supplements have enjoyed high growth on a yearly basis, with advertisements allegedly greatly contributing to this success, VFA said.
There are currently 3,700 different types of nutritional supplements circulating the market, 50 percent of which are domestically produced.
While the nutritional supplements only provide nutrients and vitamins to consumers, their manufacturers tend to over-advertise, especially via leaflets, word of mouth, and multilayer marketing, that the products can cure certain diseases, medicine experts said.
“Many manufacturers talk about their products as if they are a panacea,” said Phong.
“We have revoked their licenses, publicized their misconduct via the media, and levy penalties which they defy because of the huge profits.”
Meanwhile Doctor Luong Chi Thanh, from the Ministry of Health, said products that can cure diseases are considered medicines, but have been mistaken by consumers as nutritional supplements and used as food.
“Should consumers inappropriately take these medicines, they may suffer severe side effects,” he warned.
“Following a healthy and nutritious diet is the best way to stay healthy, and consumers are advised to beware of nutritional supplements featured in ads that boast about their qualities,” said Pham Hung Cung, deputy chairman and general secretary of the Vietnam Nutritional Supplement Association.
For his part, Doctor Ta Van Binh, former director of the Central Hospital of Endocrinology, said nutritional supplements are under loose management in Vietnam.
“Authorities should tighten their control on the product ads to prevent consumers from being fooled by misleading information,” he urged.
Dubious ‘nutritious rice’
T, a Chinese nutritional supplement manufacturer which runs a plant in Vietnam, has recently announced that it will unveil a new product called ‘nutritious rice’ on the local market.
The products are red and green rice-like pills which the company says can provide a decent amount of nutrients such as vitamins E and B1, as well as iron and zinc, to consumers once they are cooked together with their daily rice.
The supplements are made by grinding the real rice into powder, after which they are mixed with the nutrients, and finally restored into the shape of rice.
“The green rice is intended for children, while the red is for adults,” the company’s chairman said.
However, commenting on the product, a nutrition expert said that even mixing one nutrient, such as iron, into food is a complicated process.
“Simultaneously packing a number of nutrients, from iron and zinc to vitamins, into a few rice grains is incredible,” he stated.