Saturday, 23 March, 2019

Evira finds 59 faulty novel foods sold online

26 Feb 2018, 00:47 ( 26 Feb, 2018) | updated: 26 Feb 2018, 07:32 ( 26 Feb, 2018)

DF Report
Photo Source Evira.

Unauthorized medicinal claims were found in the online marketing of 59 food supplements, found a recent investigation conducted by the Finnish Food Safety Authority (Evira). 

Unauthorised novel foods were sold in 35 online shops, said Evira in a press release.

The findings were made when Evira participated in EU’s first common control project of distance selling of foods in the autumn of 2017. Online shopping sites targeted at

Finnish consumers were searched for unauthorised novel foods and medicinal marketing of foods related to bone and joint health.

Medicinal claims related to osteoporosis or arthritis were found in 59 online shops selling food supplements. Of them, 49 online shops were Finnish, nine shops were located in other EU member states, and one was an online shop from the USA. In the case of the remaining five online shops, the responsible operators could not be identified.
Food supplements are foods and they may not be marketed using medicinal claims such as ‘prevents osteoporosis’, ‘treats osteoarthritis’, ‘cures joint inflammation’, or ‘reduces joint pain’. Properties related to curing, treating, or preventing diseases can only be attributed to medicines.

“It is advisable to be critical if the effect promised in an advertisement or in the labelling sounds very medicinal. It may be an attempt to deceive the consumer,” said Marjo Misikangas, a senior officer at Evira.

Only authorised nutrition and health claims may be made on foods. Foods do not go through the authorisation procedure which is required of medicines for the assessment of their composition and effect before the medicine is placed on the market. The composition and marketing of foods is not controlled until after they have been placed on the market.

The searches made in the online shops concerned agmatine sulphate as well as Acacia rigidula, Epimedium grandiflorum and Hoodia gordonii plants. They are all non-authorised novel foods, i.e., their safety when used as food has not been verified. 

They were found in the selection of 35 online shops. Agmatine sulphate was the one found in most of the cases, with products containing it on sale in 20 online shops.

Nine of them were Finnish online shops. Agmatine sulphate is used in, for instance, products intended for sportsmen.

Products containing Epimedium grandiflorum plant were found in four online shops, of which three were Finnish. Acacia rigidula plant was on sale in one online shop, as was the Hoodia gordonii plant. Both these plants were being sold by foreign online shops. 

Novel foods refer to foods with no traditional history of food-use within the EU prior to 1997. Novel foods can only be placed on the market through an authorisation procedure to ensure their safety.

The responsibility for the compliance of the foods marketed in an online shop as well as for the information provided on them lies with the food business that has registered the domain name. Where prohibited products were found in the online shop of a business that had registered the domain name in Finland, a control request was forwarded to the municipal food control authority in the domicile of the food business.

For control of online shops located in other member states, assistance was requested from the authorities of the member state concerned through EU’s Rapid Alert System for Feed and Food (RASFF) or EU’s Administrative Assistance and Cooperation system (AAC). 

The European Commission was notified about the online shops and the responsible operators assessed to be located outside the EU. Evira will continue with developing the control of ecommerce in Finland and will actively participate in cooperation at the EU level.