Consumers conned on vitamin claims

Belinda Cranston

People seeking to improve their health with vitamin supplements could be wasting their money or even jeopardising their well-being, with products are labelled with misleading or insufficient information.

A visit by Which? to key supermarkets, chemists and smaller health shops in London in October found numerous examples of unsubstan-tiated claims on supplements, with the worst culprits those which claimed to maintain healthy bones and joints.

"Researchers also found high-strength supplement products containing vitamin B6 and beta-carotene on sale, without the recommended warnings that taking too much of them could be harmful," Peter Vicary-Smith, chief executive of the UK's consumer watchdog, said.

In addition to visiting the retail outlets, Which? carried out an online survey of 1,263 supplement takers.

"A third didn't realise that taking too much of some supplements could damage your health," Mr Vicary-Smith said.

He called on the European Commission to address the issue.

"We're concerned that people are being taken for a ride, needlessly paying a premium for many products on the basis of health claims that haven't been backed up by scientific evidence," he said.

"We want to see the European Commission release a list of accepted and rejected claims as soon as possible, so consumers won't continue to be bamboozled by health claims they can't trust."