Nutraceuticals: The need for strong regulation

Rutu Dhodapkar, Dietetics Department, P D Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centre, Khar explains the importance of nutraceuticals and the regulations required in the times of the pandemic
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Nutraceuticals are dietary supplements that provide health advantages and protection against chronic illnesses. Interestingly, the nutraceutical industry has evolved over time. It has also been noted that the consumption and focus on nutraceuticals has increased since March 2020 in India. The All Indian Origin Chemists and Distributors (AIOCD) report on sale of top-selling medicines highlights the strong sale being recorded by nutraceuticals quarter on quarter. The perception of consumers overall shifted to nutraceuticals and dietary supplements to boost immunity against COVID-19. Interestingly, during the pandemic, last year, two types of nutraceuticals were used in India- traditional (including herbs and phytochemicals) and non-traditional (including fortified foods with essential nutrients).

When it comes to consuming nutraceuticals, it has been observed that people tend to take the supplements owing to self-medication or sometimes on basic recommendations basis friends or family members. However, it is imperative to note that before consuming nutraceuticals, it is advisable to consult a doctor or a nutritionist.

Certain nutraceuticals are recommended based on the disease condition. For example: Omega -3 fatty acids as combination of DHA –docosahexaenoic acid and EPA Eicosapentaenoic Acid are packed in one. Anti-ageing products can have anti-ageing effect with the right ingredients in the right proportion. Talking about disease prevention, nutraceuticals are seen to be healthy alternatives.

Current challenges and need for regulation

The current scenario of the nutraceutical industry has provided possibilities for pharmaceutical firms to develop and make their goods more consumer-oriented. The nutraceutical business is likewise expanding considerably in order to attract international investment. Growing demand has given rise to various enterprises in this regard. India’s distinct advantage of a rich tradition and knowledge, the availability of raw materials, the rise of herbal extract producers, and a strong presence as a favoured supplier in many export markets position it as a competitor in global markets.

On the other hand, health supplement companies have been threatened with legal action if they do not follow the allowed suggested limit. The Indian regulator has instructed all state food safety commissioners to verify that health supplement companies follow the rules. Defaulters may face harsh penalties, including product recalls and the revocation of FSSAI licences, according to industry experts. The FSSAI has instructed central licensing authorities to evaluate the RDA, with defaulters receiving notices to alter their goods in accordance with the RDA.

As relevant standards are established, current rules and regulations are sufficient to govern the industry. When the authority requests it, the recorded scientific data must be submitted. According to the standards, product details must be stated on labels. Defaulters are identified by committees, and the necessary actions are taken.

For the sector to survive and expand at a quicker rate, it is critical that the nutraceutical segment be recognised as a separate and distinct entity with its own set of laws and regulations based on a full understanding of the industry’s operations. The Indian nutraceutical industry is booming, and India is on track to become the global leader in this area in the near future.

AIOCDFSSAINutraceutical IndustrynutraceuticalsP D Hinduja Hospital and Medical Research Centrepharmaceutical industryRutu Dhodapkar
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