Health foods litigation in China: Unregulated influencer marketing and fake goods spur nearly 1000 actions

By Tingmin Koe contact

- Last updated on GMT

Nearly 1,000 cases of public interest litigation have been filed against individuals and companies for the illegal production, marketing and sales of health foods in China in the past 15 months.  ©Getty Images
Nearly 1,000 cases of public interest litigation have been filed against individuals and companies for the illegal production, marketing and sales of health foods in China in the past 15 months. ©Getty Images

Related tags: China, Health claims, livestreaming

A total of 964 cases of public interest litigation have been filed against individuals and companies for the illegal production, marketing and sales of health foods in China in the last 15 months.

Examples of the cases included general foods making health and therapeutic claims by influencer marketing, as well as illegal production of fake supplements using ingredients imported from the US.

Persons involved have since been charged and prosecuted under criminal law. Certain cases also involved civil lawsuits.  

The country’s Supreme People’s Procuratorate (SPP) said that the cases were brought to light between September 2019 and December last year, when it worked with the State Administration for Market Regulation (SAMR) and National Medical Products Administration (NMPA) in a crackdown against food and medicine safety issues.

A total of 7,569 litigation cases have been raised, of which, 4,718 involved agricultural products and 1,887 involved food products sold on the internet, while 964 involved health foods.

“There were cases on fake advertising of health foods, as well as the sale of food products with counterfeit trademark.

“There were also cases involving compensation 10 times higher against manufacturers and sellers of poisonous and harmful food, as well as those that called for compensation three times the amount involved in cases of fake advertising where consumers were deceived,”​ said Xu Quanbin, a senior SPP prosecutor during a media conference.

“By demanding compensation from the people who have infringed the law as a form of punishment, [we can] protect consumers’ legal rights, raise the stakes of illegal activities, at the same time, warn and deter potential infringers,”​ he added.

Case study 1: Unregulated influencer-marketing

Out of the eight case studies that the SPP has highlighted, one of it raised the issue of unregulated sale of general foods marketed as health foods online via influencer-marketing and/or livestreaming sessions. 

In these instances, the products did not provide the required information, such as the ingredient list, production dates, name of manufacturer, address, contacts.

To prevent leaving online transaction records and monitoring from the authorities, the merchants/influencers will leave their Wechat contact or other contact methods to get in touch with the buyers so that the transaction could take place offline.

Handled by the Beijing Railway Transport Court, the cases were brought to the attention of Beijing’s market regulator, which in turn conduct an investigation on the platforms in which those merchants/influencers have promoted their products.

These platforms were also asked to step up checks on content posted.

Case study 2: Fake goods

In another case, a biotech company in Changzhou, Jiangsu, had manufactured a fake supplement product using magnesium chloride imported from the US, but marketed it as a product that contains 81 minerals and micronutrients beneficial for respiratory, heart, and digestive health.

Over 80k bottles were sold, which is equivalent to total sales of RMB$23m (US$3m).

The company, which is in the business of distributing and selling health foods, also did not have the required license to make health foods.

The fake supplement did not contain the required information such as its SC (sheng chan, meaning production) number.

The company even conducted health lessons to promote the product.

The Jiangsu Changzhou Intermediate People’s Court handled a civil lawsuit against the company raised by the Changzhou city People’s Procuratorate.  

The procuratorate had demanded for a compensation three times the amount the company had gained via sales of the product.

Related news

Show more

Related products

show more

Broadening formulation with Postbiotic LAC-Shield™

Broadening formulation with Postbiotic LAC-Shield™

Morinaga Milk Industry Co., Ltd. | 25-Nov-2022 | Technical / White Paper

Postbiotic emerges as a strong biotic solution for functional food and drink products, especially those that probiotic bacteria cannot thrive in. LAC-Shield™...

Pycnogenol® Helps Relieve Restless Legs Symptoms

Pycnogenol® Helps Relieve Restless Legs Symptoms

Horphag Research | 17-Oct-2022 | Clinical Study

New research shows Pycnogenol® French maritime pine bark extract provides a significant decrease in Restless Legs Syndrome symptoms, including crawling,...

Winclove introduces Ecologic® AAD

Winclove introduces Ecologic® AAD

Winclove Probiotics | 05-Oct-2022 | Product Brochure

Ecologic® AAD has been tested in a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled trial with healthy volunteers taking amoxicillin, performed by Maastricht...

Related suppliers

Follow us

Products

View more

Webinars

Nutra Champions Podcast

Nutra Champions Podcast