In the UK, health and fitness supplements are becoming increasingly popular amongst a wide demographic. These products are sold in a variety of retailers including supermarkets, gyms and even pharmacies. There has been word of health problems arising from their use, so is it time for greater regulation on some of these emerging products?

With developments happening everyday in this sector, it may be difficult for regulatory bodies such as the FSA and MHRA to set up bulletproof regulations as quickly as the need arises. In many cases, there is a degree of regulation, but as industries grow in popularity and more brands start producing products, the need for regulation to keep up becomes increasingly vital.

Updated CBD regulations

One of the industries that is facing more stringent regulation is the CBD industry. According to reports, the CBD industry is worth around £300m, and is set to triple in value to over £1bn in the next five years. The growth of the CBD market has been astounding, with as many as 1.6m people in the UK regularly using it.

CBD, or cannabidiol, is a compound extracted from the hemp plant, a close relation to cannabis. However, CBD products do not contain THC, the compound responsible for giving cannabis users a high. CBD is most commonly taken via oral oils and sprays, which are retailed as ‘novel food products’ and subject to the associated legislation. In this case, the FSA is updating its regulation on March 31st 2021.

This is a perfect example of the FSA (Food Standards Agency) moving to clarify the requirements for products that have recently begun to become more common. Widely available in supermarkets and pharmacies, 6 million people in the UK have now tried CBD, so it is critical to ensure that new products are safe for mass consumption.

The FSA has responded in earnest, detailing the latest requirements for CBD products by its March deadline. FSA CEO Emily Miles outlined the purpose and requirements of this update, saying: “CBD products are widely available on the high street but are not properly authorised. The CBD industry must provide more information about the safety and contents of these products to the regulator before 31 March 2021, or the products will be taken off the shelves.”

How will this impact the CBD industry?

Considering the purpose of the new CBD regulations, it is clear that this should help to build greater confidence in a product that is already proving popular. It could even be viewed as an opportunity; indeed, Vitality CBD, is one of the most widespread brands in the UK market to have already submitted their dossier for FSA approval. The comments from their Commercial Director, Phillip Glynn, seem to confirm this optimism: “It is important for our trade customers and consumers alike, to know that Vitality CBD, together with our raw ingredient provider, are one of the first in the UK CBD industry to submit a Novel Food dossier, and are therefore leading the way in future compliance and regulation”.

Are other industries also improving?

There are notable similarities between the CBD industry and other ingestibles, namely food and fitness supplements. These products have been increasing rapidly in popularity, but the regulation surrounding them could be seen as outdated. They are currently regulated as food products and subject to FSA legislation that has been updated occasionally since the 90’s.

This suggests robust regulation surrounding these products exists, however, it seems that there are still some dangerous products that slip through the net. In the case of nutritional or vitamin supplements, health scares are incredibly rare, but these are reminders that regulation or guidance may need improving.

There are still doubts over the effectiveness of vitamins and diet supplements from consumers, with uncertainty largely being down to the individual experiences of customers. Though there may be implied benefits on external packaging, there is often still concern over the reliability of products, which can inflict scepticism and distrust.

In the fitness and workout supplement sector, things could be seen as needing further regulation, with reports of dangerous products being found in gyms across the UK. However, the issue seems not to be because of lax UK regulation, but because many of these products are imported outside of the UK and EU. Products bought online are at risk of being unregulated and containing harmful compounds.

While sellers are obliged to check if all products they sell comply with FSA legislation, some products are still retailed either through ignorance or willful refusal to comply. Worse still, there are examples of the MHRA finding illegal products being sold, which in one case caused two men to suffer liver damage. The fact these products are arriving in the UK and being sold is evidence enough of stronger guidance needing to be issued around the origin of diet supplements.

The future of supplement regulation in the UK

While CBD is moving in the right direction legislation-wise, the rest of the health and fitness sector seems to be lagging behind on product guidance. Evidently, regulation does exist, however there is the complication of products entering the UK without being subject to checks.

As seen in the comments from Vitality CBD’s commercial director, these are industries that are enthusiastic about working with regulators, so there should be no fear in adding extra guidelines. In doing so, it can be expected that further confidence in health and fitness supplement products will be built, ensuring that products remain reliable and safe for human consumption now and in the future.

About the author

Roman Hadley is a content contributor based in the West Midlands of the UK. He has worked in various industries, including the automotive and well-being sectors.