ETHIOPIA – The Food, Medicine & Health Care Administration & Control Authority (FMHACA) has said that it will not renew the certificate of competence of two food supplement importers until additional product content information is provided.

These two unnamed companies have been requested to provide the information following the enforcement of the 2014 Food Supplementary Directives, which will put slimming products out of the market.

The knowledge gap among the Authority’s experts caused slimming products to be categorised as food supplement items and allowed them to be imported into the country, explained Tewodros Germa, food registration & licensing director at FMHACA. It was only recently that they realised otherwise.

Food supplement products are defined by the directive as “a concentrated source of vitamin, mineral, amino acid, or other substance with nutritional or physiological effect, alone or in combination; prepared in dosage form and intended to supplement the normal diet.”

But usually, slimming products are a concentrated low calorie food nutrient that can be easily accessed within our normal daily diet, Tewodros explained.

In relation to this directive which began to be implemented two months ago, a slimming tea that is imported by Tiens Group, Ethiopia, has been put out of the category, Tewodros confirmed. And there are an additional 42 companies that are yet to be assessed in order to decide whether their products can surface on the market again.

These are included among 72 companies that import food supplements. The assessment is carried out as the companies apply for the renewal of their competence certificates.

If a company finds itself off the food supplement list, it has the right to sell its existing stock before leaving the market.

For the two companies whose renewal is pending, there is only one option – to provide further information on the content of their products, which will help the Authority to make its decision. If they do not, their certificate will eventually expire, ultimately putting them out of business, Tewodros pointed out.

Hidden Treasure, an importer of the Malaysian-based Edmark’s food supplement products, has products that are dedicated to body slimming programmes known as Shake Off, Meal Replacement Therapy (MRT), Splina Liquid Chlorophy II, and Edmark Cafe.

The products were imported following all the procedures requested by FMHACA, which took them about nine months, according to Marta Degefe, marking manager of Edmark.

If FMHACA now states this category does not suit their products, they are ready to provide all the information required to assure the Authority that their products have no ill effects towards users, only benefits, she adds.

Even though FMHACA is trying to create a professional and precise environment for the implementation of the directive, it is yet to come up with procedures or directives with which it can treat such categories of products, admitted Tewodros.

But since FMHACA is unplugging their product from the food supplement category, the Tiens Group needs clear cut regulations to determine in which category their products fall and the way they can sustain their business activity since they are not in any sort of violation, emphasised one of their administrators who requested anonymity.

Without a clear and simple format to be followed, what they are doing now is spreading frustration and business chaos for the companies, he added.

Even if slimming products have no scientific base, their usage is becoming popular as a result of increasing obesity in the city, claimed Zelalem Debebe (MD), dietitian at Balance Heath Nutrition & Dietetics Plc.

In 2000, the prevalence of obesity among urban women had reached 14.9pc, up from 10.7pc in 2011, according to a study by Solomon Abreham on the Trend and Magnitude of Women’s Obesity, 2013.

The study indicated that the problem is intensified between women in the age range 40 and 49 years and residents of metropolitan areas such as Addis Abeba and Dire Dawa, where one out of five people is obese.

June 22, 2015;