Concerned about the burgeoning range of off-the-shelf food supplements and the possibility of at least some of them containing banned performance enhancing substances, the National Anti-Doping Agency (NADA) had recently approached the Food Safety and Standards Authority of India (FSSAI) with a request to frame standards for these supplements.
But after several meetings between the two, FSSAI declined the request, maintaining that given the nature of expertise and sports medicine knowledge required to do so is beyond their mandate. NADA officials approached FSSAI over concerns that mushrooming gyms not only in urban but also in rural areas were pushing some of these supplements and there is no control or monitoring over what they contain. Hence, FSSAI should frame standards.
Though FSSAI agreed in principle with the concerns expressed by NADA and a section of the authority was keen to go ahead with the exercise, in the end the authority decided not to. A senior official told The Indian Express that though the NADA’s concerns were genuine, there were several other hurdles that eventually made them decide against helping NADA.
“The concerns they raised were genuine. Food supplements that are sold over the counter and often pushed by gym instructors may contain performance enhancing substances banned for athletes or substances that are just generally harmful for people if used indiscriminately. There may even be prescription drugs that ordinarily cannot be bought over the counter but have an anabolic (body-building) effect on the body,” he said.
After much deliberation and several meetings with the NADA, FSSAI concluded that they couldn’t frame standards from NADA’s perspectives and yardsticks. It was beyond their mandate.
“We deliberated over the matter, had two-three meetings with NADA and decided that we cannot frame standards from the perspective they want us to. It is beyond our mandate — there is a long list of banned substances, some that are not to be used during competitions but can be used otherwise, others that can never be used,” the official said, “Then there is also the matter of dosage. So we told them that it is beyond our mandate,” he added.
Incidentally, FSSAI had, last year notified standards for health supplements, nutraceuticals, foods for special dietary use, food for special medical purpose, functional food and novel foods. “The articles of food with standard nutrient or nutritionally complete formulation shall consist of a composition delivering the desired level of energy, protein, vitamins and minerals, and other essential nutrients required for respective age group, gender and physiological stage in accordance with the guidelines made by the Indian Council of Medical Research,” reads the regulations stipulated by the FSSAI.
Ingredient purity is mandated to be in accordance with the FSSAI standards for those categories of food — in cases where standards are not specified, purity criteria generally accepted by the various pharmacopoeias — Indian Pharmacopoeia, Ayurvedic Pharmacopoeia of Indian Medicinal Plants, Indian Council of Medical Research, British Pharmacopoeia, US Pharmacopoeia etc are to be used.