Agriculture Minister Clarence Rambharat has expressed concern about “get slim quick” products on the local market.
He was speaking last Friday as vice chairman of the Joint Select Committee (JSC) on Finance and Legal Affairs on an inquiry into consumer awareness, empowerment and protection systems.
Rambharat said he is very concerned about things such as energy drinks, energy bars, products make you slim very quickly and melt belly fat in seven days, super greens, omega products which are sold in pharmacies, supermarkets and gyms.
“Every morning, when I turn on the television I see somebody peddling some omega oil product.”
He asked what measures are in place to protect the public and inform the public about the risk of these get slim quick and boost energy products proliferating the market.
Chemistry Food and Drugs Division director Faaz Khan said as it relates to energy drinks there are applicable international and regional standards and in TT those same guidelines are used. He explained as part of the registration process all omega products would have to go through a thorough, robust registration process and to an evaluation committee, the Drug Advisory Committee, which has experts in the pharmaceutical and the medical fields. He explained the committee would look at the medical and clinical claims.
Rambharat asked about products claiming to remove belly fat in seven days.
“The certification accreditation process has established that a consumer purchasing that product will have all the belly fat removed in seven days? Because that is what they say on the label.”
He added: “Are the consumers in our country at risk of being fleeced by importers and advertisers of products that will not do what the advertisements and the labels claim they will do?”
Khan explained there is a definition of medical claim which deals with mitigate, cure or treat.
“If on a particular label there isn’t any indication or claim or advertisement that this product can either cure, mitigate or prevent, it falls out of the realm of a drug and it falls under a food item.”
He said based on the legislative remit in the case of a product purporting to reduce, eliminate or manage belly fat there is not any conclusive evidence that the product can do what it is claiming to do.
“It would be a bit misleading to the public unless there is additional information related to the product that would give further advice in terms of what are the other dietary requirements that need to take place in conjunction with the use of this particular product.”
JSC member Taharqa Obika said he stopped using an omega product because he heard it could affect fertility.
“I have two children and I want to have more.”
He asked if companies were mandated to place side effects on the packaging and Khan replied that it is mandatory.
Director of veterinary public health Dr Saed Rahaman said there is a disclaimer on all food supplements that take them away from regulatory control but if they provide a negative impact the division will step in. He gave the example of when energy drinks were now coming into the market many contained constituents, such as caffeine, which were on the level of a drug and therefore were pulled from the market.
“So it’s a narrow line but we try to see what falls into drugs, what falls into supplements, and whether that supplement is taken from the way it is meant to be taken it is safe.”
He said it is important from a consumer awareness perspective for consumers to read the label.
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