Surveillance of Food Supplements Official inspection and consultation service - the Austrian approach

Since 1975 food supplements had to pass an authorization procedure before being placed on the Austrian market. This procedure was accompanied by an authorization procedure for health related claims on food. Due the entry of Austria to the European Union in 1995 and the new legal basis of the European food law by regulation 178/2002  and as a consequence of the food-law related jurisdiction of the European Court, the authorization procedures were stopped by the Austrian authorities. In a period of almost 30 years the Austrian authorities approved approximately 12000 individual food supplements and approximately 7000 health related claims on food. Last but not least since the entry into force of the novel food regulation  these databases have proven to be a precious source of information according the classification and legal status of ingredients in food and food supplements. 
Due the change in European food law from authorization procedures to the principle of misuse new challenges were set for food business operators and the official food control in Austria. The analysis and expert opinion on food supplements were reduced from 7 to 1 laboratories. In parallel the numbers of official food supplement samples were increased. Last year (2016) 301 official food samples were examined within the framework of the routine food inspection by the Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety (AGES). Additionally special surveillance programs on defined hazards in the field of food supplements (e.g. microbiology of plant powders, caffeine and synephrine, GMO) were executed. The quota of incompliant products was about 27% for “general food inspection samples” The main reason for objection was incorrect labeling including illegal misleading or medicinal claims. 
Due the termination of the national authorization procedure reputable food business operators did not have the possibility of demanding an independent official governmental opinion on their marketability. Following the past official authorization procedures the AGES built up a voluntary process to check and to assess the marketability of food supplements in Austria. On average 100 “private” samples of food supplements are checked by the AGES yearly in this procedure. This examination includes not only the labeling, but also the composition of active ingredients and food additives and the whole appearance of a product (advertisements, internet-homepage). This inspection gives legal reliability for food business operators and is a strong argument in negotiations with distribution companies especially but not exclusively for small companies.
Due the information gained by inspections of “private” samples the AGES gets to know the latest inventions and trends in the field of food supplements. As a result of the intensive contact and respect on both sides consumers can be effectively protected from suspicious products before they become available on the market.