How health supplements are regulated by HSA
Revised on 8 August 2022
What are health supplements?
Health supplements are commonly taken for the purpose of supplementing the diet to enhance or support health, and their ingredients are generally recognised to be safe for consumption. They typically contain vitamins, minerals or substances derived from plant or animal sources, or are synthetic duplicates of the naturally occurring ingredient.
Health supplements are usually presented in dosage forms such as tablets, capsules or liquids in small, measured doses. Unlike medicines, health supplements are not meant to prevent, treat, cure or alleviate symptoms of medical conditions and diseases. Some examples of health supplements include vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and glucosamine joint supplements.
What do I need to know about health supplements marketed in Singapore?
As ingredients used in health supplements are generally well-established through experience of safe use and are not intended for medicinal purposes, health supplements do not require approval and are not evaluated by HSA before they can be sold locally. Our regulatory approach for health supplements is similar to that adopted by the United States, European Union countries and Japan.
Although health supplements are not subject to evaluation, approvals or licensing, HSA has put in place safety and quality safeguards:
- Prohibited substances - HSA prohibits the addition of medicinal ingredients such as steroids in health supplements. HSA also sets strict limits on toxic heavy metals in these products. Dealers (which include manufacturers, importers, distributors and retailers) are responsible for the safety and quality of their health supplements and have to ensure that the products meet HSA's stipulated safety and quality standards.
- False or misleading product claims - Dealers should also ensure that the product claims on labels and advertisements are not false or misleading, and their product advertisements do not make claims for treatment or prevention of diseases.
- Post-market surveillance programme to monitor the safety of health supplements and to initiate timely product recalls - This includes sampling of products in the market and adverse reaction monitoring, which draws on HSA’s network of healthcare professionals and international regulatory partners to pick up signals of adverse reactions to products.
- Local database of safe and good quality health supplements - In August 2022, HSA introduced a voluntary notification initiative for companies dealing with health supplements. This allows companies to submit voluntary declarations on their health supplements to show that they comply with the published guidelines. The inclusion in this database should not be misconstrued as HSA's endorsement of these products. You can find the list of health supplements that are voluntarily notified with HSA here. More products that meet the safety and quality requirements will be added to the database over time.
Dealers are responsible for the safety and quality of their health supplements. They also have to ensure that their products meet HSA’s stipulated safety and quality standards. HSA will take the necessary actions should there be any safety or quality concerns detected with health supplements marketed locally. Members of the public will also be alerted on harmful products.
If you suspect that the product you are taking is making you unwell or causing side effects, please consult a doctor and bring along the product.