Advice from BuRO on pharmacologically active substances in food supplements

BuRO advises the Minister for Medical Care and Sport to add 12 substances, which occur frequently in food supplements, to a national list of unsafe substances in food supplements. Such a list has yet to be drawn up. BuRO advises the NVWA to prevent the presence on the market of food supplements containing these substances in excessive daily doses.

BuRO also advises the Inspector General of NVWA to submit the underlying approach for the evaluation of pharmacologically active substances in food supplements to the members of the Heads of Food Safety Agency Working Group on Food Supplements.

Reason for BuRO advice

Food supplements are marketed in the Netherlands, some of which are aimed at weight control and reduction, performance enhancement and/or libido enhancement. These supplements may contain pharmacologically active substances. Research conducted by the NVWA in 2016 showed that in over 60% of the 160 examined libido enhancing supplements, slimming preparations, fat burners and pre-workouts one or more regulated pharmacologically active substances were present. In a number of these products, non-regulated pharmacologically active substances were also found in concentrations that, after ingestion, could possibly lead to harmful effects on health.

Approach by VWS

At the end of December 2020, the Minister for Medical Care and Sport informed the House of Representatives of the Netherlands of the intended approach to the safety of food supplements, which consists of:

  • Setting up a national list of unsafe substances
  • Targeted supervision of trade via the Internet and of trade from third countries
  • Information and risk communication
  • Exploration of the introduction of a notification system.

With this approach, the minister is taking steps to improve the enforcement of active substances in food supplements.

Heads of Food Safety Agencies Working Group on Food Supplements

The aim of this working group is to create a joint European list of substances in food supplements that should be banned or restricted by the authorities.

Pharmacologically active substances in food supplements

The following substances, which are not legally regulated, are regularly found by the NVWA in food supplements:

  • DMAA (1,3-dimethylamylamine)
  • DMBA (1,3-dimethylbutylamine; nor-DMAA)
  • DMHA (1,5-dimethylhexylamine; octodrine)
  • BMPEA (β-methylphenethylamine)
  • PEA (phenethylamine)
  • N,N-DMPEA (N,N-dimethylphenethylamine)
  • Halostachine
  • Higenamine
  • Hordenine
  • Icariin
  • Isopropyloctopamine
  • Methylsynephrine