Professor Le Van Truyen, a medical expert, said he really is concerned about manufacturers over-publicizing some products like nutritional supplements that only provide nutrients and vitamins and are not food substitutes or cures for diseases.
Manufacturers tend to over-publicize via leaflets, word of mouth, and multilayer marketing that these
products can cure certain diseases while the nutritional supplements only provide necessary vitamins.
Professor Truyen said this at a meeting held by the Ministry of Health on the Role of Nutritional Supplements and their Management, on October 27 in Hanoi.
The rampant over-advertising of these imported nutritional supplements or ambiguous use of these substances in treatment of diseases can be harmful. Many manufacturers talk about their products as if they are an over-all remedy for everything.
However, very few cases have been fined by the health watchdog. According to the Vietnam Food Administration (VFA), it fined only one case for substitution and 29 cases for over-advertisement in 2009 and 2011, respectively.
In the first three months of the year, only 17 cases have been penalized.
Vietnamese consumers are being fooled by exaggerated advertisements about the cure-all benefits of nutritional supplements.
Admitting that the use of nutritional supplements do support patients’ health condition, Luong Ngoc Khue, head of the Health Ministry's Department of Medical Examination and Treatment said that nutritional supplements are not a drug so doctors are not allowed to prescribe them as cures.
Since entering Vietnam ten years ago, food supplements have enjoyed high growth on a yearly basis, with advertisements greatly contributing to this success, VFA said. Vietnam has more than 1,781 enterprises manufacturing and selling 10,000 nutritional supplements.
Dr. Tran Quang Trung, head of VFA, said there are many problems in management of nutritional supplements, especially with many people taking part in a multi-level selling system resulting sometimes in fraud.
People in this marketing system tempt other people to join in, to earn profits by exaggerating the use of the supplements for cancer treatment, HIV or dangerous diseases.
The health watchdogs can’t control the quality of these supplements such as Ginseng and caterpillar fungus imported into the country through many ways.