Dietary supplements are products that contain vitamins, minerals, nutrients, proteins, secondary phytochemicals or other substances like herbs which have specific nutritional or physiological effect. They are manufactured in the form of capsules, tablets, granules, liquids or powder. Some food sources do not provide essential vitamins and minerals so consumers take nutritional supplements to make up for the loss so they can lead healthy lifestyles.
Food Safety Regulations in India state that all dietary supplements shall have nutritional facts/ nutritional information label like vitamins, minerals, proteins, energy etc. per serving of 100gm/100 ml listed on label panel. Unless these products are tested in a food laboratory the exact quantity cannot be ascertained. If the dietary supplements fail to have the right quantity of the required nutrients they will not fulfil the primary aim of effectively combating deficiencies, hence the need for food testing
The FSSAI has notified the Food Safety and Standards (Health Supplements, Nutraceuticals, Food for Special Dietary Use, Food for Special Medical Purpose, Functional Food and Novel Food) Regulations, 2016 in the Official Gazette on 23 December 2016. Food Business Operators will need to comply with these regulations from 1 January 2018. The regulations have been formulated because there were a number of safety concerns regarding dietary supplements which including
- Lack of sufficient active ingredient
- Extraneous material and adulteration
- Synthetic substances used in place of naturally derived materials
- Unknown origin of materials
The raw materials and ingredients in dietary supplementscan also include oils, flowers, berries, plants, and herbs. There are safety concernsabout the source of these ingredients as well as their hygienic handling during the manufacturing process. Manufacturers of dietary supplements must therefore send their products for testing to NABL approved and authentic testing laboratories to ensure that raw materials as well as the finished products are safe and free from contaminants like heavy metals, natural toxins and also pesticide/fungicide residues.Some suppliers of raw materials also undertake testing as a certificate of analysis means that the materials are quality assured which builds trust as an authentic supplier.
Food Business Operators that manufacture dietary supplements have to be careful about the declaration they make on labels. Stringent analysis of dietary supplements is required to prevent inaccurate labelling information. Besides quality control it is important to also ensure that the product does not have more or lesser quantity of active and inactive ingredients than declared on the label. Adulterated, as well as misbranded productsthat make false claims on labels are liable for penalties.
It is frequently difficult to differentiate between dietary supplements and medicines. Therefore, it is important to carry out analysis during the formulation stage so that the composition of the dietary supplement fulfils the intended purpose for which it is being formulated. . Food Business Operators need to get their food testing done in laboratories that use HPLC and GC techniques as these are the methods used in testing of dietary supplements.Manufacturers undertaking testing will thus be able to provide products with the highest quality.