VietNamNet Bridge – Functional food is getting familiar in Vietnam and they are over-advertised as “panacea”.
Functional food is noisily advertised on newspapers, televisions and the Internet. All of advertisements describe functional food as miracles.
For example, googling “collagen functional food” in Vietnamese, one will have 444,000 pages after 0.10 seconds.
This kind of functional food is advertised as follow: “extracted from protein of fishes that live in the deep layer of the ocean, collagen functional food can help users have smooth, firm, young skin, to remove all wrinkles and spots on the face, wrists, heels, etc. Taking only two pills a day, in several weeks, users will have wonderful skin.”
This product is also advertised to make hairs and nail smooth and healthy, to reduce limb frostbite, to help bones and joints move easily, to help women have good shape, etc.
“If you use this product from now until you are old, you will not get any kind of disease. Active elements in this product can prevent the development of cancer cells. Using this product, you will be free of diseases and you will be young forever,” another advertisement says.
Another functional food product is advertised as follow: “This product is made from rare herbal remedies. It strengthens and brings up cells, promotes the circulation and toxic discharge of the lymph system, supports the treatment of inflammation and infection, tumors, cancer and side-effects of chemical radioactive treatment…”
Another product is advertised to assist the growth of stem cells, blood filtering, to fight cell oxidation. It is good for patients of diseases related to the heart, brain, muscle, immune system, kidney, liver as well as osteomalacia , Alzheimer, Parkinson, etc.
Notably, the prices for these products are very expensive and no side-effects are mentioned in advertisements.
Recently, advertisements of functional food have targeted those who are week at sexual function. Some products are praised as Viagra because “it can excite sexual desire to the utmost” and taking this product, men can have sex for over one hour.
Nguyen Thanh Phong, vice chief of the Health Ministry’s Agency for Food Hygiene and Safety, said that such advertisements are illegal because they are not approved by health agencies.
“Functional food has certain effects but they cannot replace medicines. Functional food is banned from being advertised as medicines, but illegal advertisements make people believe that they work as medicines,” Phong said.
The official said that his agency will make public, the list of functional food traders that violate the rules on advertisements.
He also said that the Ministry of Health is compiling a new decree of administrative fine, under which violations in advertisement will be fined from VND20-30 million ($1,000-1,500).
According to a survey by Nielsen, Vietnam ranks 8th in the top ten countries that believe in advertisements the most.
Vietnamese consumers believe in traditional advertising channels, specifically, 79 percent of them believing in advertisements passed down orally, in television (73 percent), and in other forms of media (72 percent).
Some 58 percent of consumers trust modern advertising tools like online customer reviews, advertising emails (38 percent) and online searching engines (52 percent).
It is explained that Vietnam has opened its door for a short time, so the market is flooded with many kinds of imported and locally-made products that consumers don’t know yet, or they don’t have enough time to learn about these products. As a result, advertisements are the only channel that provides information about products, so they believe in advertisements.