China’s health claims update: SAMR unveils 24 new indications for public consultation

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

China's State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) is revamping the types of health claims that health foods can make. ©Getty Images
China's State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) is revamping the types of health claims that health foods can make. ©Getty Images

Related tags: China, regulations, Health claims

China is revamping its list of permitted claims for health foods and has unveiled 24 new claims for public consultation.

The original list has 27 claims. Three claims have been removed in the newly drafted list. The removed claims are “promotes lactation”, “improves growth and development”, and “improves oily skin”.

The State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) said​ they have proposed to remove these claims as they do not fit into the current framework for health indications.

The newly drafted list contains claims that are similar in nature to the original list, however, they have been rephrased and terms such as “helps to”, “aids in” are heavily used.

For example, the claim “strengthens immunity” has been rephrased to “the ability to help strengthen immunity”, while “modulate gut microbiome” has been rephrased to “the ability to help modulate the gut microbiome”.

In addition, more scientific concepts were reflected in the new list, regulatory consultancy firm CIRS has pointed out.

For instance, the old claim “aids in lowering blood lipids” is rephrased to “the ability to help maintain a healthy blood lipid level (cholesterol and triglycerides)”. The claim “weight reduction” is also changed to “the ability to help regulate bodily fats”.

Once approved, the claims could be used on health foods that are approved via the filing and registration tracks. However, the claims cannot be used on vitamins and minerals. These products are only for the purpose of  supplementing vitamins and minerals​.

“The newly drafted list has provided an overall direction for the health foods companies.

“Although the draft has yet to pass, as a precaution, we will advise companies to stop the development of products that make the three claims not included into the new draft,” ​Cathy Yu, GM of the food business division at CIRS told NutraIngredients-Asia.

Three other drafts were also published for public comments.

They include contents on 1) defining the list of permitted health claims 2) guidelines and standards for assessing health claims and 3) ethical guidelines for human clinical trials involving health foods.

Public consultation for the four drafts will end on Dec 23.

The SAMR has been reviewing health foods claims in the past one year. The review started with​ removing health claims targeted at ‘special consumer groups’, namely the teenagers, children, pregnant women, and breastfeeding mothers.

Health claims definition

This is the first time the Chinese authorities have released an explainer for health claims.

Yu believes that the explainer will help manufacturers better understand the criteria and standards for making a particular claim.

The explainer also allows consumers to understand that health foods are not for disease prevention or treatment. However, Yu said that details on how the explainer would be made available to the public and whether the explainer would be printed on the product labels were not put in place yet.

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