Singapore has a high standard of living with a GDP per capita of US$ 37,5971 (2008). There is a high awareness on health and wellness among its population with a growing number of consumers taking health supplements.
Popular health supplements in Singapore are multivitamins, vitamin C, vitamin B complex, calcium, fish oil, glucosamine, and chicken essence complex as tablets or capsules. These products are regulated by the Health Sciences Authority (HSA). To market as a health supplement, a product should be in a defined dosage format (e.g. tablet, capsule, sachet) and to contain permissible substances such as vitamins, minerals, amino acids, animal and botanical extracts or concentrates.
Currently, health supplements do not require pre-marketing approval in Singapore; companies are required to ensure that their products on the market are high quality, safe, and without misleading claims. The HSA has issued Health Supplement Guidelines, which details the guiding principles on the requirements of the health supplement ingredients and claims.
In Singapore, manufacturers must ensure the ingredients used are not mentioned in the prohibited lists of the health supplement guidelines. These prohibited lists include:
- Ingredients controlled under the national poison act such as vitamin K
- A negative list of health supplement ingredients, such as kava-kava and Aristolochia species
- Chemically isolated constituent of plants, animals, minerals or a combination of any of these substances
According to the regulations, benefit or health claims must be supported by adequate scientific evidence, and the company will be required to provide this to the authority when requested. Health claims must not relate to the prevention or treatment of diseases or medical disorders. In addition, health supplement products must not relate to specific diseases and conditions such as cancer, hypertension, sexual function, diabetes, impotency and menstrual disorder. Permitted claims include those for:
- general health maintenance and well-being, such as ‘relieves general tiredness’
- supplementation of vitamin and/or mineral (must be greater than 30% the RDA value), such as ‘supplementing nutrition’
- general enhancement or maintenance of healthy functions, and support of natural physiological processes, such as ‘supports healthy joints’
In the near future, it is likely that there will be more regulatory control over the health supplement category, such as some form of pre-marketing approval may be required, in line with ASEAN regulatory harmonization.
EAS has released a unique and easy-to-follow guide to help companies build successful regulatory strategies to enter Asian region’s nutritional product market. The guide, titled ‘Marketing Health Supplements, Fortified & Functional Foods in Asia: Legislation & Practice’, covers national and regional rules for health supplements, including rules for ingredients (vitamins and minerals, herbs and other functional ingredients), claims and regulatory procedures for product marketing. Visit www.eas.asia for more information.