Joint health supplements ads the latest target in Korea’s crackdown on fake claims

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has been actively inspecting online ads featuring health supplements with false or exaggerated claims. ©Getty Images
South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has been actively inspecting online ads featuring health supplements with false or exaggerated claims. ©Getty Images

Related tags Joint health MFDS

South Korea’s Ministry of Food and Drug Safety (MFDS) has taken action against websites that showed exaggerated advertisements for joint health supplements.

A total of 29 advertisements were found to have violated the Act on Labelling and Advertising of Food.

Out of these 29 cases, 17 were health functional foods advertisements that had promoted the product using information that was different from what was submitted to the assigned authority.

In order for health functional foods to make and advertise health claims, they must be reviewed in advance by the Korea Health Functional Food Association.

Seven advertisements had made disease prevention and treatment claims, such as “anti-cancer”, “excellent anti-inflammatory” effects.  

The remaining five of them had advertised health functional foods that could cause the consumers to confuse the products as medicines.  

The MFDS inspected 172 websites that advertised and sold joint health products targeted at the elderly and came with exaggerated claims in February.

In particular, the ministry had targeted online advertisements that induce consumers to make the purchase via telesales - where marketeers were enticing the consumers to make the purchase via false or exaggerated claims.  

For instance, there were claims on how an ingredient known as ‘000’ has anti-inflammatory and anti-cancer effects and is known to have five times the regenerative power of stem cells.

There were also claims on how the products could remove cells that were inflamed and darkened from the joint. 

“The inspection was conducted to prevent damage to the consumers, as there were cases of unfair advertisements for the elderly who are interested in health and health functional foods that are effective in preventing and treating diseases,” said the MFDS.

Websites that have published these advertisements were informed to block these posting.

For this inspection, 51 experts from the medical field, consumer groups, and the academia were involved. 

“Health functional foods are consumed to achieve ‘useful effects’ such as physiological effects of the human body. It should be consumed with caution in mind that it is different from medicines for prevention and treatment of diseases​.

“In order to treat diseases such as joint pain and deformity, it is necessary to consult a specialist when experiencing early stage of the symptoms, rather than consuming food or health functional foods,”​ the team of experts said in a MFDS statement.

The previous inspection that the team focused on were general foods and health functional foods ads that claimed to improve students’ memory, sleep, and immune health last November. ​A total of 194 cases were uncovered as a result.

Apart from advertisements, the MFDS has also followed closely on the quality of krill oil, having implemented a year-long policy​ on all krill oil imports back in Sep 1, 2020. 

Cooperation with seniors group

On the other hand, the ministry plans to cooperate with organisations such as The Korea Senior Citizens Association in developing materials that can help seniors guide their decision in purchasing health functional foods.

The association is said to have 3.5 million members who are 65 years and above.

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