At the start of the Green Week, the consumer advice centers presented their new Internet portal "Klartext Nahrungserganzung". It is immediately activated and is to inform consumers about risks of the means. In addition, it should give them the opportunity to ask questions and submit complaints. Although vitamin deficiency is a rarity in Germany, the market for the pills is growing rapidly.
"The total turnover of dietary supplements was 1.1 billion euros in 2015 alone – excluding Internet and mail-order sales," said Klaus Muller, head of the Federation of German Consumer Organisations (vzbv) in Berlin on Wednesday. But instead of supporting health, as about half of German consumers hope, according to a Forsa survey commissioned by the consumer watchdog group Verbraucherzentralen, the products could actually do harm.
Overdose as a consequence
Often several dietary supplements would be taken at the same time or combined with other nutrients and medications. Overdoses and interactions are the result, according to Muller. Too much of the vitamins A or D can lead for example in the extreme case to Hypervitaminose – poisoning symptoms, which can accompany for instance with dizziness, nausea and headache. "If the intake of vitamin C is too high, the risk of kidney stones increases," explained prof.
Helmut Heseker from the Institute for Nutrition, Consumption and Health at the University of Paderborn. "At the same time, there are fewer than ten cases of scurvy – pathological vitamin C deficiency – in Germany each year."Really meaningfully only few preparations are. This is where the new portal wants to come in. Nourishing experts are to answer questions of consumers directly.
Sensible daily amounts
Under the heading "Risks", users can find out about sensible daily amounts and possible problems when combining products with medicines. Which products consumers should generally keep their hands off is summarized under the category "harmful substances", links to international rapid alert systems lead users to an overview of dangerous products and their origin. Consumer advocates do not claim to be exhaustive.
Instead, the government has a duty to set up a database of officially registered dietary supplements and a reporting office for side effects, Muller demanded. Too often, consumers are helplessly confronted with products overloaded with advertising that can hardly be distinguished from medicines. Here, too, the legislator would have to make improvements. The fact that the EU has so far made hardly any specifications with regard to dietary supplements is no reason not to take action at national level "and also to be a pioneer," says Muller.