Uncertainty of Health Claims Usage for Foods and Supplementary Foods in Turkey
The health claims for foods and food supplements were regulated by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry (“MoAF”) within the framework of the Turkish Food Codex and accordingly, the health claims to be used in the advertisement, promotion, and label of foods and supplementary foods were permitted by MoAF. In this context, manufacturers and importers must use health claims for the label, promotion, and advertisement of their products in line with the regulations of MoAF.
According to the Turkish Food Codex legislation, it was determined that the food and supplementary food cannot claim to prevent, treat, or cure a disease, and not refer to such features. For instance, a food supplement using the health claim “feel comfortable in situations of stress, distress, anxiety, and insomnia with a natural content of the product” can be evaluated as unpermitted health claim usage even though the claims are scientifically proven as it directly claims treatment of certain health problems. The Turkish authorities do not want the consumers to use food supplements as substitutes for pharmaceuticals.
The health claims for certain products are specified by the MoAF. For example, the health claim for food supplements containing probiotics is “This food contains probiotic microorganisms. Probiotic microorganisms help to regulate the digestive system and support the immune system. ” Other health claims for the food supplements involving probiotics would violate the regulations. ToAF may apply administrative sanctions for the violating usage of the health claims.
However, a legislative amendment changed the system in the use of health claims and made the procedure vague for almost 2 years. The authority to supervise and allow the health claim usage in the advertisement, promotion, and label of foods and food supplements is passed into the hands of the Turkish Pharmaceuticals and Medical Devices Agency (“TİTCK”) within the Ministry of Health (“MoH”) by the Law amending certain laws on health published in the Official Gazette dated 05.12.2018. As explained above, the regulations to supervise and allow the health claims on the food supplements were regulated by MoAF and MoAF was implementing these regulations before the authorization of MoH. After the amendment, the MoH decided not to apply the ready-made regulations created by the MoAF and to create a new regulation on the health claims of foods and food supplements to give permission, however, the MoH has not established its regulation yet from December 2018 and it leads uncertainty in the sector.
Supplementary food manufacturers and importers who want to use health claims on the labels of their products must first obtain a health claim permission from MoH and then obtain permission for its label to release the product from MoAF. This latest complex structure to release a food supplement with a health claim on its label concerns the manufacturers and importers as they cannot obtain permission from the MoAF for new health claims even though the regulations of MoAF are still effective, nor can they obtain permission from MoH since MoH does not apply the regulations of MoAF and still have not created its regulation of health claims. This turns into a serious publicity problem for manufacturers and importers and causes them to be deprived of the right to use a health claim that complies with the current and effective regulations.
At this point, the manufacturers and importers are continuing to use the formerly obtained health claim permissions for their old products, but they cannot get a health claim permission for their new products. Also, there is a risk that they may face administrative sanctions from both MoAF and MoH if they violate the effective regulations created by MoAF as both administrative bodies are authorized on this matter.
It is still uncertain when MoH will prepare the regulation and start to permit health claims to food supplement manufacturers and importers.
Article contact: Bilge Derinbay / E-mail: email@example.com