US health foods body adds weight to China regulatory reform debate

By RJ Whitehead

- Last updated on GMT

US health foods body adds weight to China regulatory reform debate

Related tags Food and drug administration Codex alimentarius

The US Natural Products Association has joined industry body the US-China Health Products Association in calling Chinese food regulators to change their definition of dietary health supplements to give importers clearer access to the market.

The deadline for submitting views on the draft reform of China’s food safety laws passed at the weekend after the NPA submitted general comments to the China Food and Drug Administration in which the American apex body spelled out its strong concerns over the draft regulations that cover nutritional supplements.

A new definition

In its comments the NPA stressed its desire to see one regulatory definition for dietary supplements to include both functional foods and nutritional supplements. 

Currently these are regulated as nutrient or nutritional supplements in China. Meanwhile, dietary supplements like fish oil and ginseng tablets are currently viewed as functional foods with the ability to make one of 27 pre-approved claims. 

Last month, Chinese authorities did announce a new “nutritional supplements​” category through two policy documents. It is expected that this will come into effect in 2015.

However, Dr Corey Hilmas, the NPA’s senior vice-president for scientific and regulator affairs, says it is too early to take this announcement as a fait accompli​. 

The NPA is aware that China has created a nutritional supplement category. However, China needs to provide a document that says what dietary ingredients can be used in this category. China also needs to define the universe of ingredients that encompass this category of nutritional supplements​,” he told FoodNavigator-Asia.

Echoing the Beijing-based USCHPA, which made its submission earlier, the NPA reiterated its support for a notification system for health foods and new ingredients introduced into China over registration, similar to the regulatory framework laid out in the Dietary Supplement Health and Education Act in its last set of comments earlier in the summer.

Jeff Crowther, the USCHPA’s executive director, said that by seeking submissions on a draft reform change, the CFDA had taken a “step in the right direction​”, while its decision to create a new supplement category was its “first step to modernising its health food industry​”.  

Giving consumers access

In its latest submission the Washington DC-based NPA reinforced the points it made earlier, though this time focused more on the impact of how nutrient supplements, rather than functional foods, are regulated in China.

It outlined the concerns of interested parties in the US over product quality and safety of nutritional supplements and raw health food ingredients imported into the US from China, and encouraged stronger regulatory oversight for these products from the CFDA.  

The NPA has been involved in China regulatory issues for a long time and we want to see reasonable regulatory reform that is focused on product quality and adverse event reporting,​” said Dr Daniel Fabricant, the the association’s chief executive.

We do not want the focus to be on unreasonably keeping products out of the hands of consumers, especially those products that contain health claims supported by good science. Consumers worldwide want to take an active role in supporting their health and they should have access to these products that are used safely on a daily basis​.”

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1 comment

Nutrient Supplements

Posted by Paul O'Brien,

If you analyze this regulation the exact specifications for what Chinese regulators consitute as a nutritional supplements are very clearly defined. The new standard includes the exact nutrients and the corresponding permitted range of max/min values. If you want some help on this you can contact me at

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