After the first COVID-19 case encounter in our country, the advertisements of the food supplements and foods with health claims and nutrition claims have increased. The said products have been advertised and promoted to consumers on diverse platforms, including TV, radio and online platforms.
Competent legal authorities launched investigations since some food supplements advertised are not even authorised for sales, and some made misleading health claims in their advertising. The Ministry of Health and the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry launched investigations against several products whose ads claimed to cover and provide immunity against the Coronavirus.
The Regulation on the Importation, Production, Processing, and Launch into Market of Food Supplements requires authorisation to be granted by the Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry for food supplements to be produced, imported and launched.
Besides, the Turkish Medicines and Medicinal Devices Agency of the Ministry of Health is entitled to authorise the usage of health claims in advertising, packaging, promotion of food and food supplements provided that they fulfil the required conditions according to Law No.5996 on Veterinary Services, Plant Health, Food and Feed as well as Regulation on Health Claims of Products Sold with Health Claims. Accordingly;
- The Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry is the competent authority to supervise the market and impose sanctions if food supplements launch into the market without proper authorisation or approval.
- In case of the launch of food supplements into the market or its advertisement with misleading health claims without proper legal authorisations, the Ministry of Health is the competent legal authority for supervising these sales, cease, collection, recall and destruction of these products.
- In addition, the Advertisement Board within the body of the Ministry of Trade may impose sanctions (i.e. warning, cease of advertising, administrative monetary fine) in case of incompliant advertisements for food supplements on any platform, sales and promotions with misleading health claims without proper authorisations and noncompliance with other advertising regulations.
- As per Broadcasting Law No.6112, RTUK is also entitled to supervise the advertisements of food supplements. No sale, marketing or advertisement of a product, including the food supplements and similar supplementary products with health claims against its relevant legislation, shall be included in the broadcasting services.
- Law No.1262 on Pharmaceuticals and Medical Preparations rules imprisonment term from 1 year up to 5 years for those who sell, advertise or promote any non-pharmaceutical product declaring that the product diagnoses and treats any disease.
As a result of these multiple controlling mechanisms, food supplements are one of the food groups subject to very strict supervision. Since the consumers might consider the food supplements as pharmaceuticals and are particularly related to public health, the Ministry of Health and other regulatory public authorities attribute high importance to food supplements and apply strict supervising activities.
It is deemed possible to impose the abovementioned administrative and penal sanctions on advertisers and advertising platforms, including social media influencers, because several products without being authorised as food supplements have been advertised particularly by the celebrities through their social media accounts with the health claims of preventing from Coronavirus and curing Coronavirus and that the promotions with the misleading health claims such as protection against the virus and of recovery of the infected persons following the usage of the products.
The Ministry of Health is revising the “Regulation on Health Claims of Products Sold with Health Claims”. The draft regulation was published on the official website of the Ministry of Health on September 14, 2020. The draft separately regulates “food supplements” and “foods” and suggests that health claims can be made on food supplements only with the permission of the Agency. The draft regulation defines its purposes as “setting the rules and principles for health claims on food products, examining the health claims for food supplements, and authorising such health claims on food supplements”. The draft further states that products sold without authorised health claims or misleading health claims may be seized or recalled.
It is understood from the announcement of the Ministry that the main objective of this draft is to prevent especially increasing online sales of products with misleading health effects. So, we may expect stricter rules in the future.