Frequently asked questions
Weight loss products
1. Is authorisation needed in Finland for the marketing of a weight loss product?
As a rule, the marketing of weight loss products is not subject to authorisation.
No notification needs to be submitted of weight loss products marketed as meal replacement or total diet replacement products. A food supplement notification is required on weight loss products sold in the form of a pill, pellet or comparable, when the product is placed on the market.
2. What is the difference between total diet replacement, meal replacement and VLCD product?
Total diet replacement can be used to replace the whole daily diet, and a meal replacement to replace one or several meals. VLCD products (very low calorie diet) are weight loss products for a very low-energy diet, with an extremely low energy content of 450–800 kcal/daily dosage.
3. How does legislation provide for weight loss products?
Decision 904/1997 of the Ministry of Trade and Industry on weight loss products lays down requirements for the composition of the diet, and for packing and labelling. The Decision is based on European Commission Directive 96/8/EC. So far no there are no detailed provisions for the composition of VLCD products.
Only the chemical compounds referred to in Commission Regulation (EC) No 953/2009 on substances that may be added for specific nutritional purposes in foods for particular nutritional uses may be used as sources of vitamins, minerals, amino acids and other nutrients that are added in weight control products.
4. Which labelling information is mandatory on weight loss products in additional to regular labelling.
The labelling of a total diet replacement shall provide instructions for appropriate preparation, where necessary, and a statement as to the importance of following those instructions, a statement to the effect that the food may have a laxative effect, and a statement on the importance of maintaining an adequate daily fluid intake.
The labelling of a total diet replacement should also contain a statement that the product provides adequate amounts of all essential nutrients for the day, and a statement that the product should not be used for more than three weeks without medical advice.
5. I participated in a home-selling party where a weight loss product was marketed. According to the presenter and also the brochure, a weight loss of 10 kg is achieved in a few weeks. Is this possible?
Not for everybody. The rate and amount of weight loss is affected by very many individual factors related to energy intake and consumption, such as the energy content of the food and drinks consumed, the basic metabolic rate, level of physical activity, type of work and amount of every day exercise. Because of this, it is not possible for a single food intended for weight loss to produce the same weight loss effect on every individual person within the same time.
Marketing of this nature is considered misleading and nowadays it is also prohibited by law. Effects that may be attributed to a weight loss product include effects on weight management, appetite, a reduction in the sense of hunger or an increase in the sense of satiety, provided the conditions laid down for the use of the claim in Nutrition and Health Claim Regulation (EC) No 1924/2006 are fulfilled.
Sport nutrition products
1. Are the so-called protein supplements intended for sportspeople safe to use?
Most protein supplements contain protein from milk or soy, and based on the general composition should not pose a health hazard.
As with other foods, the manufacturer or importer of the sport nutrition product is responsible for its safety. Only authorised additives may be used in them, the levels of contaminants may not exceed the maximum permissible limits and their microbiological quality and quality in other respects must meet the requirements.
2. Are sport nutrition products sold in gyms controlled?
The control of food supplements and sport nutrition products sold in gyms is part of normal food control that in Finland is carried out by municipal health inspectors. Foods imported to Finland are also controlled by the Customs.
Evira's predecessor, the National Food Agency Finland, implemented in 2004–2005 a national gym control project in which the labelling of more than one hundred products sold in gyms was inspected. Analyses were carried out on some of the products to establish their composition.
3. Have the hormone levels of sport nutrition products sold in gyms been analysed?
Cf. previous answer. No indications of prohibited doping substances were found in the products sold in gyms that were analysed in the gym control project carried out in 2004–2005.
4. Is authorisation needed in Finland for the marketing of a sport nutrition product?
As a rule, no authorisation is required, but in case of a food supplement, the company that manufactures or imports the product shall submit a food supplement notification to Evira before the product is placed on the market. Sport nutrition products are pills, capsules or herb extracts, for instance.
It is also possible that ingredients that can be classified as novel foods are used in sport nutrition products. Authorisation is required for placing a novel food on the market. It is the responsibility of the manufacturer, importer or other operator to establish if the product is a novel food.
5. I am planning to import a new sport nutrition product to Finland from USA. There has so far been no comparable product on the EU market. Where can I have the conformity of the product reviewed?
The food sector operator, for example the importer, is responsible for ensuring that the product conforms to regulations and is safe to use. The importer shall have adequate information about the product they import and market.
The food laws of the USA are not consistent with the EU regulations, and therefore the conformity of the product to the EU regulations needs to be carefully reviewed. Municipal food control authorities can provide advice of a general nature on the matter, but will not analyse the composition of the product or inspect the labelling in detail. If the importer is not in possession of adequate information to review the matter, they can contact consulting firms specialising in the food industry.
A lot of information about e.g. approval of food establishments, notification procedure on food supplements, and labelling can also be found on Evira's website.