Berlin Consumer advocates want to take legal action against dubious traders who take advantage of the corona pandemic with overpriced products or questionable promises. “People who do business in this crisis at the expense of other brazen business should be ashamed,” said the head of the Federal Consumer Association (VZBV), Klaus Müller, the Handelsblatt. The consumer advice centers warned if the legal situation existed. “Three breathing masks for 999 euros or vitamin supplements against the corona infection are no longer within a free pricing framework that would be tolerable,” says Müller.
According to Müller, some of the online retailers make sure that there is no platform for such “bad deals”. “The consumer advice centers ensure that legal consequences also threaten here.”
Müller takes a critical view of the trade in food supplements in this context. “Here consumers are being pulled out of their pockets with unfair and unsustainable promises,” said the VZBV boss. “This is particularly reprehensible in times of the corona crisis.”
Despite pending scientific evidence of its effectiveness, more and more people are taking nutritional supplements. In Germany, every third adult takes such a preparation, and one in four takes more than one per day. According to the statistics service provider IQVIA, the manufacturers achieved sales of 2.1 billion euros in 2018 alone through sales in German pharmacies – an increase of almost six percent annually since 2014.
With regard to such non-medical preparations, the Greens also warn of dubious health promises – especially in times of the corona crisis. “Dietary supplements cannot prevent people from getting the new corona virus. Providers who appear different in the current crisis are not serious and are deceiving consumers, ”said the Green Party parliamentary spokeswoman for the Greens, Renate Künast, the Handelsblatt. “Profit from the fear of the pandemic is unacceptable in every way.”
Consumer advocates found years ago that websites such as the “Center of Health” promoting food supplements are often primarily about product sales. In the case of the current crisis, the dangerousness of the corona virus is even relativized. “Fear – whether of the corona virus or other things – usually arises only because we have heard something about the supposed thing and believe it,” says the website of the portal. And: “For example, many people are afraid of wolves without ever having hit one. Then why are they afraid of wolves? Because they believe something that is written or told about these animals. “
Strict regulation required
And a few paragraphs later it goes on: “So do not believe everything that is said and claimed. But don’t spread rumors yourself. Because just because this or that stands or is told somewhere, it doesn’t have to be true. ”
Users who continue to look around on the website will then find tips with the headline: “How to strengthen your immune system with selenium”. To explain it then says: “Anyone looking for protection against corona inevitably stumbles across selenium. The trace element is responsible for a powerful immune system – and a strong immune system in turn protects against viruses, including corona. ”
The Consumer Advice Center North Rhine-Westphalia, however, clarifies in a current warning: “There are no food supplements that can prevent a disease with the novel corona virus (SARS-CoV-2).”
The Greens politician Künast warns: “Instead of relying on false advertising promises, people should strengthen their immune system through healthy and balanced nutrition and sufficient exercise.” Robert Koch Institute.
Künast also sees a need for legislative action. “The very lucrative business with food supplements must finally be regulated.” For years, the EU Commission has not complied with its announcement to set maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in food supplements. “There is also no sign of an approval requirement and therefore a precise review at European level,” criticized the Greens politician.
It is therefore necessary to set national maximum levels for vitamins and minerals in a timely manner. There have been templates for this in the Federal Ministry of Food for years, says Künast. “So that the money is not uselessly pulled out of people’s pockets and even new health risks arise, the ministry should finally introduce a regulation in the foreseeable future.”
More: Read here why researchers advise not to spend money on supplements.