Sports nutrition, vitamins form bulk of ‘illegal supplements’ sold on Aussie ecommerce sites – new data

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

Sports nutrition products such as protein powder formed the bulk of 'illegal supplements' sold on third-party e-commerce website in Australia. ©Getty Images
Sports nutrition products such as protein powder formed the bulk of 'illegal supplements' sold on third-party e-commerce website in Australia. ©Getty Images

Related tags Complementary medicines australia TGA e-commerce

Sports nutrition and vitamins form the majority of illegal supplements sold on third-party e-commerce sites in Australia, industry body Complementary Medicines Australia (CMA) has revealed.

The CMA has been gathering information on illegal supplements sold on Australia’s e-commerce sites and presenting the findings to the Therapeutic Goods Administration (TGA) under a partnership known as 4 Eyes Project.

‘Illegal supplements’ refers to products that are not registered with the TGA and thus could not be found on the Australian Register of Therapeutic Goods (ARTG) database.

The project aims to curb the rise of imports of such complementary medicines, sports supplements, and therapeutic goods into Australia. 

Nearly 2,000 illegal products identified have been removed from sale from ecommerce sites operating in Australia as of March 6.

A total of 850,514 illegal products and 124,299 counterfeit units have been seized and destroyed.

Most of these illegal products are sports nutrition, vitamins, and collagen products, Cameron Thorpe, industry & sports supplement development at CMA told NutraIngredients-Asia​.

In the case of sports nutrition, as majority of the purchase have taken place online, hence the likelihood of catching unregistered products for this category was higher, he explained.  

“It’s a bit of variety there but yes sports supplements have been picked up more frequently. I think because they're a lot easier to sell on the ecommerce sites.

“Many people want to buy them from the e-commerce site and that’s where we'll also pick up (identify the unregistered products, whereas for the others, we have to dig further into the database of the sites.”

Based on the recent reports, most of the unregistered products caught also included vitamins.

So far, 11 reports each consisting information on an average of 25 products unregistered in the ARTG have been submitted to the TGA.

“A lot of them are also the typical vitamins, the micronutrients, vitamin C, B-12 to B-complexes, and vitamin D…A lot of them are getting picked up in the past two recent reports.

“Others [that were picked up] were the miscellaneous ones such as cranberry and collagen,” ​he added.

A mix of local and foreign brands

While most of the illegal imports were from countries such as South Korea, UK, Belgium, and China, illegal products from Australian firms were also found on the ecommerce sites.

Legal actions have since been taken.

One of the latest examples is Caveman Nutrition, which was fined AUD$208k (US$138k) for unlawful advertising of sports supplements in February.

Aus Labs Research Supplements, on the other hand, had pleaded guilty to illegal manufacturing and supply of nootropics and Selective Androgen Receptor Modulators (SARMs) and the firm is scheduled to receive its sentence on March 17. 

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