Recent Posts

Unsatisfactory Health Food Products in China Announced (Dec 2015)

Unsatisfactory Health Food Products in China Announced (Dec 2015)


(CMA Testing and Certification Laboratories)

On 17 Dec, China Food and Drug Administration (CFDA) announced the test results of latest surveillance on health food products. Out of 240 batches of samples tested, 6 batches were found unsatisfactory.

Reference:CFDA, 2015

These unsatisfactory test items can be categorized into three types. First group is physio-chemical parameters, including water content and ash content. Next one is mould, a microbiological parameter. The last group refers to functional ingredients that most readers might not be familiar with, including total flavonoids, total saponins and salidroside.

Total Flavonoids

Plants containing flavonoids are frequently used as raw materials for health food products. This is because flavonoids are bioactive capable of removing free radicals and with antioxidant effect. Several studies indicated that flavonoids help to alleviate physical fatigue, protect blood vessel, enhance immunity, avoid lipid peroxidation, slow down ageing, etc.

Total Saponins

Saponin is the main ingredient of ginseng (e.g. American ginseng & Asiatic ginseng) which can also alleviate physical fatigue, slow down ageing, enhance immunity, etc. Using Asiatic ginseng as an example, more than 10 types of saponins have been found.


Salidroside is an active ingredient of Rhodiola spp. (also known as “Plateau Ginseng” or “Tibetan Ginseng”), with beneficial and medicinal properties e.g. anti-oxidation, anti-faigue, immunity enhancement, cardiovascular protection, etc.

Other Unsatisfactory Items Associated with Health Food Products in the Past

Apart from aforementioned test items, health food products sold in China were also once found unsatisfactory due to other problems. Examples of non-compliances are listed in the table below.

[1] CFDA, 2014; [2] CFDA, 2015; [3] CFDA, 2015; [4] CFDA, 2015;

[5] CFDA, 2015; [6] CFDA, 2015;

[7] CFDA, 2015; [8] CFDA, 2015;

[9] CFDA, 2014

Since the public is increasingly concern about health, health food products are expected to have a strong market potential. Just like ordinary food, health food shall become unsatisfactory due to excessive bacteria, prohibited drugs / chemicals, excessive or insufficient metals as claimed and failure in meeting specified physicochemical parameters (e.g. pH, peroxide value, etc.). In this connection, regulatory authorities should assure safety of health food products by closely monitoring the whole supply chain, covering production, packaging, transportation and retail of health food products. Moreover, governments should strengthen regulatory control to stop illegal traders from making exaggerated health claims about health food, so that claims stated on product packaging and advertisements are factually correct.