USA to lobby Japan over supplement restrictions

Supplements suppliers' leaders in the US and Japan have joined forces to call for Japanese rules surrounding dietary supplements to be relaxed.

America's Council for Responsible Nutrition and the Natural Products Association announced the tie-up with the National Nutritional Foods Association of Japan on 6 June, claiming the arrangement could make a wider range of dietary supplements more accessible to Japanese consumers and lead to increased trade between the two countries.

At present, Japan has stricter rules on making health claims on supplements than in the US, a situation all three associations would like to see eased.

CRN president and CEO Steve Mister told Functional Ingredients: "We want to be sure that health claims decisions are driven by science and that if there's data to support a claim it ought to be allowed. We have had some concerns about the willingness of the Ministry of Health, Labour and Welfare in Japan to approve health claims for our products beyond just structure, function claims to actually reduction of risk for diseases, and so we believe this is an opportunity for us to share with those officials, through the Japanese association, some of the science we've accumulated in this country about the benefits, to make them more receptive to approving these health claims."

In addition, said Mister, Japan's upper limits on the nutrients in supplements were relatively low, hindering the marketing of products containing several times the recommended daily intake.

"There is also an issue about the potency of these products, whether you can sell high potency that goes beyond the RDA for some of these nutrients. We believe those kinds of decisions are to be based on sound science. So if science and risk assessment demonstrate that three, four, five times the RDA can be beneficial, then MHLW ought to recognize that those are legitimate supplements," he said.

"Think about vitamin D. The RDA for vitamin D is low, but we have now learned about all these benefits about vitamin D at much higher levels, and yet countries are slow to revise their upper levels to allow those kind of products to be sold."

A delegation of CRN and NPA scientists and executives from member companies are to visit the Japanese capital Tokyo this summer to meet with NNFA-J officials and members. The bodies will establish a working group to discuss concrete measures for the alliance.

They are also set to meet Japanese officials to discuss the restrictions on supplements. David Seckman, executive director and CEO of the NPA, said: "CRN, NPA and NNFA-J will meet with officials at the concerned authority to renew our call for permitting consumer-friendly, science-based health claims on supplements."

CRN and NPA would highlight recent US FDA regulatory efforts aimed at ensuring food safety and consumer protection, he added.

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