According to the Association’s figure, around 60 nutritional supplements of 15 exporters were marketed in 2000 but there have been approximately 6,800 kinds of 3,600 enterprises so far.
Walking through supermarkets, consumers will encounter a variety of foods that serve different purposes; the health supplement industry is extremely lucrative due to insane profit margins while buyers must keep their eyes open or they will buy substandard products mixed with good kinds in shelves.
Chairman of the Vietnam Association of Functional Food Dr. Tran Dang said the number of Vietnamese people taking nutritional supplement pills has increased from 500,000 people in 2000 to 5 million in 2010 and 15 million presently.
Demand increase has led to mushrooming of manufacturers. The number of functional food producers is 3,000 nationwide and thousands of so-called medicinal products are made; 70 percent of them are locally-made products.
Deputy Health Minister Truong Quoc Cuong didn’t deny the benefit of nutritional pills adding that the effectiveness of these pills was exaggerated by businesses' employees or the advertising without assessment by health watchdog.
For example, the Vietnam Food Administration under the Ministry of Health issued fines of VND75 million ($3,223,612) each to An Nhien Pharmaceutical Company, Nam Phuong Cosmetic Pharmaceutical Company and Dong Do Pharmaceutical Company in Hanoi for their products over-adverting that will cause misunderstanding amongst consumers.
In October, 2018, 99 manufacturers had to paid VND5.5 billion administrative fines for falling foul of food safety regulations.
A leader of the Health Ministry worried producers will take advantage of the word “nutritional supplement” to define their products as functional pills causing misunderstanding for buyers. Accordingly, the Ministry has banned the claims to treat an illness or cure a medical condition.
Alarmingly, more firms have used nutritional supplement for multi-level business to earn unlawful profits, Mr. Cuong said.
Head of the Vietnam Food Administration Nguyen Thanh Phong said that the Ministry has ordered enterprises to enhance making research and standardize production procedure with the orientation towards sustainable development of the industry.
Competent agencies should strengthen supervision on quality and advertising content to avoid misunderstanding of nutritional supplements’ use amongst consumers because some firm employees’ boast that the pill can be used to treat diabetes and gout.
From October 20, violators in food safety will be fined up to VND70 million and forced to destroy all false advertising documents as per the government’s decree No. 115. Moreover, they must publicize the rectification on media. Even they can be taken to the criminal court if they make counterfeit products.