SA nutriceutical sector on a high

8 April 2004

South Africa’s nutriceutical industry has grown rapidly over the past decade, and is now estimated to be a worth around R7-billion.

This can be compared to nutriceutical industries worth about $86-billion in the US and a quarter of the $6-billion annual food sales in Japan. 47% of the Japanese population consume nutriceuticals.

Nutriceuticals, made from herbal or botanical raw materials, help in the prevention or treatment of disease. They include a broad range of health supplements and complementary medicines sold at health outlets, pharmacies and retail outlets.

Millions of rands are currently been invested in the nutriceutical industry in South Africa, in particular in efforts to develop medicines and supplements to combat the HIV/Aids pandemic.

Experts say the industry has also grown as a result of the negative effects of modern lifestyles on our health, including stress. Increasingly, they say, consumers are taking responsibility for their health, opting for self-medication through nutritional supplements.

The growth of the industry has come with some drawbacks, however. According to Business Day, the industry is largely unregulated, leaving consumers at the mercy of advertising claims.

  • The University of Stellenbosch’s Nutrition Information Centre works to expose nutrition misinformation, and to offer solid, healthy dietary advice in its place.

The Medicines Control Council (MCC) has been criticised for a lack of uniform policing, and legal loopholes have allowed manufacturers to produce complementary medicines without certification and with vitamin contents below the recommended daily allowance. Experts say this is partly due to the difficulty in defining nutriceuticals.

The MCC applies standards laid down by the Medicines and Related Substances Control Act, which governs the manufacture, distribution, sale and marketing of medicines.

Recently the Herb Research Foundation in the United States, South Africa’s Agricultural Research Council and the US Agency for International Development (USAid) joined forces to develop sustainable businesses through the environmentally and socially conscious cultivation of herbs.

Because of its southern hemisphere location, the region has the opportunity to become a primary producer of off-season herbs during the time when they fetch the highest prices on world markets.

SouthAfrica.info reporter