Food Supplements – Do They Require Nutrition Labelling?
A food supplement provides a source of a substance which is believed to have a nutritional or other beneficial effects.
These substances(s) may include vitamins (e.g., folic acid), minerals (e.g. calcium), amino acids (e.g. tryptophan), fatty acids (e.g. omega 3) and herb and plant supplements (e.g. ginseng or matcha).
The UK Food Standards Agency defines a food supplement as ‘any food the purpose of which is to supplement the normal diet and which is a concentrated source of a vitamin or mineral or other substance with a nutritional or physiological effect, alone or in combination and is sold in dose form’.
This European Union paper: Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council of 10 June 2002 on the approximation of the laws of the Member States relating to food supplements (Text with EEA relevance) lists the vitamins and minerals that may be used in the manufacture of food supplements, together with the forms in which they may be added. For example, selenium may be added as sodium selenate, sodium hydrogen selenite or sodium selenite!
We are sometimes asked about labelling for food supplements. Do they need the same nutrition labelling as standard food products?
The answer is no.
In the United Kingdom and European Union, there is no need to create a macronutrient nutrition label, listing protein, fat, carbohydrate etc. for a supplement.
It is, however, required that the content of the relevant nutritional or beneficial substance(s) be listed, together with the ‘Nutrient Reference Value’, for example
One tablet contains:
Vitamin B6 10mg 714% NRV
Folic acid 400µg 200% NRV
Inositol 250mg ***
*** No NRV established
A list of all ingredients, with allergens identified, is also required.
There are also other statements required that discuss the use of food supplements:
‘Food supplements must not be used as a substitute for a varied and balanced diet and a healthy lifestyle’ and ‘Keep out of the reach of children plus the recommended daily dose, and a warning not to exceed this.
Some other information on supplying supplements is given in this Food Standards Agency article.