A worker mans a dietary supplement manufacturing line (Photo: suckhoedoisong.vn)

Hanoi (VNS/VNA) - More than 90 percent of dietary supplement producers in Vietnam have not implemented Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP), according to health officials, leading to fears that without gaining GMP certificates by July next year, their production would be halted.

Nguyen Thanh Phong, head of the Food Safety Department under Health Ministry, said according to incomplete statistics, there were about 4,000 dietary supplement producers in Vietnam now but about 300 had GMP certificates – the guidelines recommended by the Health Ministry to ensure products are consistently high in quality and don’t harm users.

Under a Government decision issued in February, by July next year, all dietary supplement producers in Vietnam must have GMP certificates.

The criteria for GMP certification in dietary supplement production are the same as for medicine production, Phong said.

The requirements included those relating to infrastructure, equipment, working conditions, staff and documents.

“Company owners or officers responsible for dietary supplement production must undergo tertiary education with a major relating to the company’s products,” Phong said.

“It is reported that many owners of dietary supplement companies don’t have proper understanding about medicine, pharmacy and nutrition,” he added.

The Government also requires GMP manufacturers to record their operations, especially documents on output material and quality testing.

Phong said that previously, Vietnam did not have regulations on production at dietary supplement companies. Instead, they followed regulations for food production.

“The lack of specific regulations for dietary supplement production caused inequality in business climate and affected consumers’ rights and benefits,” he said.

For example, companies with GMP certificates invested much to meet GMP requirements while companies without GMP certificates just rented an office, a workshop, bought packing equipment and sold products.

“Tightened controls on dietary supplement production are expected to curb substandard products,” he said.

Head of the HCM City Food Safety Management Board Pham Khanh Phong Lan told Thanh Nien (Young People) newspaper that in the last few years, Vietnam’s dietary supplement market had grown strongly.

Nearly a decade ago, only a few dozen dietary supplement products were available. Now, there are more than 10,000 kinds of products locally made or imported.

Increased consumption of dietary supplements showed that people invested more in health, she said.

“The increase in demand leads to the increase in supply, following market rules. But improper control by Government bodies resulted in problems such as substandard products, fake products and uncontrolled prices,” she said.

Lan said that technical standards like GMP should have been used to control the quality of dietary supplement much earlier. The Health Ministry has extended the deadline for manufacturers to implement GMP many times previously.

“It’s time to tighten control on dietary supplements, both domestic and imported,” Lan said.

She also reassured the public that supply would still meet demand in case non-GMP manufacturers close. Now, many GMP manufacturers are operating under their designated capacity because of unhealthy competition caused by substandard firms.

“When GMP manufactures can operate at full capacity or they can outsource their products, supply can meet demand,” she said.-VNS/VNA