Vietnam’s PM instructs health ministry review rules for functional foods advertising

By Tingmin Koe

- Last updated on GMT

A woman promoting a juice product during a livestreaming session. © Getty Images
A woman promoting a juice product during a livestreaming session. © Getty Images

Related tags Vietnam Advertising Functional foods

Vietnam’s prime minister has instructed the country’s Ministry of Health to review rules governing functional food advertising.

The ministry has been told to send in its proposal to PM Phạm Minh Chính by July 15.

The move was in response to a request by local industry body Vietnam Association of Functional Foods (VAFF) to control the advertising of functional foods.

“The Ministry of Health shall refer to the recommendation document of the Vietnam Association of Functional Foods; preside over and coordinate with relevant ministries and agencies to urgently review the current legal regulations and assess the current status of advertising of functional foods, especially the limitations, shortcomings and causes,”​ said a notice published by Vietnam’s government office dated June 20.

“On that basis, [the MOH will] direct the implementation of appropriate solutions within its authority and propose the completion of institutions, policies and necessary solutions to comprehensively, comprehensively, strictly and effectively manage advertising activities of functional foods in accordance with regulations, and report to the Prime Minister before July 15, 2024,” ​added the notice.

The MOH is coordinating with four other ministries for the review, namely The Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, The Ministry of Industry and Trade, The Ministry of Culture, Sports and Tourism, and The Ministry of Information and Communications.

Vietnam Television and national radio broadcaster Voice of Vietnam are also involved.

In Vietnam, the advertising content of functional foods, which include dietary supplements, must include the caveat “this product is not a medicine and is not a substitute for medicines”.

Advertisements should also refrain from confusing functional foods with medicines.

A Certificate of Food Product Advertisement Content will be given if the advertising content is approved by the authorities.

The rapid expansion of Vietnam’s functional foods and health supplement market is said to have led to trigger the increase in problematic advertising.

Examples include advertising health products as medicines, as well as uncertified advertising.

An example is local company Taphaco International Pharmaceutical Joint Stock Company, which had 1) advertised the health functional food NutriZabet – a drink suitable for diabetics – as having similar effects as a medicine and 2) advertised the product inconsistently with contents listed in the certificate of food product advertisement.

It was fined VND$75m (US$2,950) as a result on April 21, 2023.

The company was also instructed by Vietnam’s Food Safety Department to remove the advertising content.

Local media Vietnam News ​reported that the Food Safety Department imposed an administrative fine of about VND$4bn (US$157k) on problematic advertising between 2020 and 2021.

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