Food safety departments across Indian states were told to enhance surveillance and enforcement to stop the sales of PABA-containing supplements. Such products should be immediately taken down once found, said FSSAI.
PABA is a precursor of folic acid and exists in dairy products such as eggs, milk, and meat. It is usually used in dietary supplements to improve skin health.
Two years ago, it was banned in India alongside other ingredients such as vanadium, prenolit, and selenium dioxide. This was met with scepticism from the industry, which claimed that PABA has been used for many years in India and no major safety concerns has been reported.
The authorities cited safety concerns as a reason and announced that such products were no longer approved for use in products covered under the Nutraceutical Regulations.
A daily dose of more than 12g was reported to be unsafe and can bring about serious side effects such as liver, kidney, and blood problems.
Although the ban was introduced in 2018, the FSSAI said several health supplements and nutraceuticals containing PABA were still sold in the market and online till date.
A search on the internet found that PABA supplements are sold on India’s e-commerce platforms.
On one site, there are at least 60 supplements containing PABA available for sale, including several from well-known global brands.
Most of these supplements are developed by the US supplement firms and they make claims such as “supports the formation of red blood cells to deliver oxygen to cells throughout the body.”
Depending on the composition and formulation, a product can cost from INR$824 (US$11) to over INR$4,800 (US$64).
Aside from nutraceuticals, PABA and its derivatives are also commonly used in sunscreens as UVB filters.