CHINA Better labels to battle false health claims

CHINA

Better labels to battle false health claims

China Daily

15:20, August 21, 2019

Inspectors check healthcare food at a supermarket in Huaibei, Anhui province, last month. (File photo: China Daily)

Watchdog specifies proper packaging requirements to assist consumers

China's top market watchdog released new packaging requirements for healthcare products on Tuesday, as part of efforts to curb fake promotions in the sector.

Warning labels conveying the message that healthcare products are not medications and will not be used for treating diseases must be displayed on packages of all healthcare products, according to the guideline released by the State Administration for Market Regulation.

The label should be written in clear and large text that stands out from the rest of the package and take up a minimum of 20 percent of total packaging area, according to the guideline that will take effect on Jan 1.

Exaggerated and unproven product benefits that mislead and deceive consumers are rampant in the country's health product sector, according to Sun Meijun, deputy director of the administration.

"Previous regulations fail to specify where and how to place warning messages, and manufacturers tend to downplay such labels to less prominent areas," she said. "The new labeling requirement is intended to allow customers to gain a proper understanding of the role of healthcare products and make rational purchases."

The administration also released another document on Tuesday that is aimed at better governing the ingredient database for healthcare products and the list of the proven functions of these products.

The document, which will take effect on Oct 1, said all individuals, businesses, research institutes and organizations are encouraged to make suggestions to authorities on adding new entries to the database and the list.

"The new measure is aimed at fully deploying the research prowess of social institutions and increasing efficiency of the evaluation and approval process," said Zhou Shiping, head of the administration's department that oversees the special food industry.

The document also noted that the healthcare market is crowded with repetitive and low-end products. To address the issue, manufacturers are encouraged to develop innovative healthcare products by incorporating theories from traditional Chinese medicine with modern biomedicine technology.

China has recently ramped up its fight against fraudulent and illegal practices in the sale of healthcare products following a series of scandals that exposed irregularities in the industry.

One case, which surfaced in late December, involves a 7-year-old girl who died of cancer after being given products from the Tianjin-based healthcare company Quanjian Group as part of her cancer treatment.

In May, the State Council, China's Cabinet, urged authorities to crack down on false advertising meant to swindle consumers and to improve public awareness of illegal practices common in the sector.

"Next, the administration will draft new regulations dedicated to overseeing advertising of healthcare products and step up routine and spot checks of such products," Sun said.

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