Following a worldwide trend, China is the latest country to declare stricter health claims substantiation requirements for companies in the nutrition and food industry. International food policy consultancy EAS said that companies should expect to invest more resources in order to get claims approved for market use.
The Chinese State Food and Drug Administration's consultation on the draft was published this month and is open for public comments until Aug. 31. "The substantiation criteria change means that claims such as 'improves sleep' and 'relieves fatigue,' which currently only require substantiation from animal studies, will require human studies," said EAS Regional Regulatory Affairs Manager Wai Mun Poon. "However, animal studies would still be allowed for certain other claims substantiations where relevant test methods using human models are not yet available."
In the draft, the number of permitted health food claims fell from 27 to 18, motivated by safety concerns and insufficient scientific evidence or evaluation methods. Similar claims have also been grouped together, such as claims for "eradicating acne and freckles," which is now "promoting facial skin health."
Tackling a global trend
Stricter claims substantiation is trending worldwide. Europe's European Food Safety Authority is well known for its tough guidelines, while Canada doesn't recognize "functional foods" or antioxidant claims.
In the U.S., the Food and Drug Association and the Federal Trade Commission are stepping up enforcement on companies making unsubstantiated claims. And it's not just the government that's getting into the game. Private lawyers and trade associations are self-policing industry to help ensure that fringe businesses aren't misleading consumers.
And now, China. "It is a very challenging market to get into, but easier if you position as a healthy food rather than a health product," said Len Monheit, executive director of the Global Supply Network for New Hope Natural Media (NewHope360's parent company). Monheit is in Asia this week for Natural Products Expo Asia, which begins today and runs until Aug. 27 in Wan Chai, Hong Kong. The show is the leading natural and organic trade show in Asia-Pacific, hosting some 300 exhibitors.
"We are taking our industry advocacy role to a whole new level by teaching companies how to prepare and engage," he said. The group will follow up Expo Asia with the Supply Market QuickStart road show in Beijing next week. On the agenda are business strategies, marketing and communications, media relations and how to follow New Hope's standards program.