Strong regulation

Food supplemens are legally recognized

At the European level

The justification of food supplements in our daily nutrition has been recognized in Directive 2002/46/EC.

It is very important that this European directive has recognized that food supplements not only have a nutritional value, but may also have a physiological effect, thus influencing our health. It also recognizes that certain groups within the population need food supplements.

At the national level in Belgium

In Belgium, a role for food supplements has been defined in the National Food and Health Plan for Belgium 2005-2010 (NFHP-B). Belgium has also defined a legal framework for food supplements.

In Belgium, the production and sale of food supplements is regulated by very specific legislation, brought about in collaboration with NAREDI. Belgian legislation presently exceeds most of other member states’ legislation on the subject.

Consequently, we have:

  • a Royal Decree regarding nutrient-based food supplements such as vitamins and minerals, and regarding foods with added nutrients (RD 3 March 1992)
  • a Royal Decree regarding plant-based food supplements, including lists of authorized and/or prohibited plants, with strict maximum levels of use for authorized plants (RD 29 August 1997).

The most important aspect of Belgian legislation is the compulsory preliminary submission and approval of composition and packaging of food supplements by the competent authorities.

Companies who want to manufacture and/or sell a food supplement in Belgium (as in other European member states), must first « notify » the product in detail to the competent authorities.

The authorities check whether or not any prohibited ingredients have been used and strictly applies the rules regarding health claims. After approval, the product receives a notification number. This legislation, as well as a list of all products having received a notification number, is available on the official website of the Federal Public Service for Public Health www.health.fgov.be.

Medical claims vs. health claims

Medical claims are references on the packaging or publicity of a product that could lead the consumer to believe that the food supplement could prevent, cure or stabilize diseases. This is prohibited: only medicines/drugs can carry such claims.

Health claims, however, are allowed to be used provided that they refer to the improvement or maintenance of a good health and do not refer to the prevention, treatment or cure of disease. Health claims must also be scientifically substantiated.

Since early 2007, the rules for the use of nutritional and health claims have been laid down in European Regulation 1924/2006. The main objective of this Regulation is to protect the European consumer from misleading claims.

In Belgium, food supplements are considered foods

In Belgium, food supplements are subject to food legislation. Food supplements must hence comply with the rules regarding self-checking (autocontrôle), traceability and compulsory notification (Royal Decree of 14 November 2003), as are other foods.

Inspections and monitoring regarding food supplements are the responsibility of the Federal Agency for the Safety of the Food Chain (FASFC: www.fasfc.be).