Original articles

Will the new Consumer Protection Act prevent harm to nutritional supplement users?

Gary Gabriels, Mike Lambert, Pete Smith, Donavon Hiss


Background. There is no clear distinction between the regulation of food, supplements and medicines in South Africa. Consequently, grey areas exist in implementing the legislation, particularly in the supplement industry. The increase in supplement sales in South Africa can be attributed to aggressive marketing by manufacturers whose claims are not always supported by published peer-reviewed evidence. Such claims often go unchecked, resulting in consumers being mislead about the role of supplements. As a result of poor regulation, contaminants or adulterants in supplements may also cause insidious effects unrelated to the listed ingredients.
Aim. To assess the regulations, legislation, and claims associated with nutritional supplement products in South Africa.
Method. Peer-reviewed literature and the relevant South African statutes were consulted.
Results. The National Health Act incorporates the Medicine Control Council, which is charged with ensuring the safety, quality and effectiveness of medicines, and related matters, including complementary/alternative medicines. The South African Institute for Drug-Free Sport and Amendment Act provides for testing athletes for using banned substances, but currently does not concern itself with monitoring nutritional supplements for contaminants or adulterants that may cause a positive drug test, which has implications for sports participants and also the health of the general population. The implementation of the Consumer Protection Act 68 of 2008 (CPA) could protect consumer rights if it is administered and resourced appropriately.
Conclusion. The CPA should promote greater levels of policy development, regulatory enforcement, and consumer education of South Africa’s supplement industry.

Authors' affiliations

Gary Gabriels, University of Cape Town

Mike Lambert, University of Cape Town

Pete Smith, University of Cape Town

Donavon Hiss, University of the Western Cape

Full Text



Nutritional Supplements;Contaminants;Claims;Legislation

Cite this article

South African Medical Journal 2011;101(8):543-545.

Article History

Date submitted: 2011-04-12
Date published: 2011-07-25

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