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Health foods can give boost to economy

China Daily | Updated: 2017-05-04 07:56

THE CHINA FOOD AND DRUG ADMINISTRATION recently issued a draft regulation, which stipulates that health food products cannot be named after their claimed health benefits and the advertising for such products should make clear they are dietary supplements. Beijing Youth Daily commented on Wednesday:

Heath foods are natural foods without artificial ingredients. In the West, such products face stricter supervision than normal foods do because of the health benefits promoted by the producers.

It is basically the same in China, where the industry boomed in the early 1980s, contributing greatly to the national revenues. However, the market has been rocked by scandals in recent years, and nowadays many Chinese citizens consider health foods to be a scam.

One of the reasons for this is the relevant laws are still insufficient to keep wrongdoings in check. The food and drug authorities at all levels simply do not have enough legal weapons to hold accountable the promoters and distributors of substandard, or in some cases, toxic health food products.

The limited increase in market share is another sore point. Experiences suggest that when a country's per capita GDP reaches $5,000 or above, the health food industry is expected to become a staple of the food sector whose growth can be sustained for decades. The consumption of health food products could accordingly account for at least 10 percent of the total food consumption in the country.

China, whose per capita GDP was more than $8,000 last year and whose food industry produced over 11 trillion yuan ($1.6 trillion) worth of products, had a health food output of just 200 billion yuan in 2016. In other words, less than 2 percent of last year's food output was contributed by the health food industry.

It is also worth noting that senior residents, especially retired ones, account for more than half of China's health food consumption. Such a disproportion points to the fact that many healthcare product companies target the elderly by overstating the efficacy of their products in treating illnesses. This has in turn tarnished the reputation of health foods and led to the market shrinking. Toughened supervision and more efficient enforcement are more than welcome to rein in the industry.

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