Hungarian survey says fake dietary supplements are common

Four out of 10 young people in Hungary reported they had encountered a counterfeit dietary supplement, according to a survey by the National Anti-Counterfeiting Board (HENT).

At the same time, young people are also increasingly likely to seek out dietary supplements, particularly products that promise to help them lose weight. Last year, nearly 47 per cent of 18 to 22 year olds said they used dietary supplements, up from 31 per cent in 2018.

The trend is worrying given that HENT says counterfeit or otherwise uncontrolled weight-loss products have been linked to potentially life-threatening side effects.

“When used, it is only the best case if the promised weight loss is not achieved,” it says. “An illegal product may contain active ingredients that are not listed on its label, and may even lead to side effects that pose a serious health risk. Ingredients not listed… cause severe allergic reactions.”

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The survey also found that 67 per cent of young adults consider the Internet to be the most popular channel for distributing counterfeits.

“The legal requirements are clear: the use of claims which refer to the rate or extent of weight loss is prohibited,” notes Gyula Pomázi, president of Hungary’s National Office of Intellectual Property and deputy president of HENT, so consumers should look out for products that make statements of that type.

Consumer should purchase supplements from the 1,600 pharmacies who have joined Hungary’s Safe Dietary Supplement Programme and use the adjacent logo, to ensure they only get “counterfeit-free, controlled-active, safe food supplements that do not endanger [their] health,” continues HENT.

The market for dietary supplements or nutraceuticals has been growing at a sizeable rate in recent years, with some estimates that it could be worth almost $500bn worldwide by 2026, and that has made it a magnet for counterfeiters.

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