We thank Mr David Soh Poh Huat for his letter (HSA should work with other agencies to check safety of health products; May 17).
The Health Sciences Authority (HSA) takes a risk-based approach to ensure the safety and quality of health products marketed in Singapore. Higher risk products, such as medicines that contain potent ingredients for the treatment of diseases, require pre-market approval and licensing for their manufacture, importation and sale.
Health supplements typically contain ingredients with low inherent risks, such as vitamins and minerals, and are not meant to prevent, treat or cure diseases. They are therefore not subjected to pre-market approval.
Still, HSA bans the adulteration of health products and limits toxic heavy metal levels in them. This approach is also adopted by the United States, European Union countries and Japan.
Dealers and sellers are responsible for ensuring that their products comply with local requirements or will face penalties, including hefty fines and jail terms.
HSA also carries out checks, investigations and sampling of products to ensure their continued safety and quality after being marketed. Unsafe products are removed from the market.
To pick up early signals of harmful health products, HSA also monitors local and overseas reports of adverse reactions to them.
Mr Soh cited an example of two consumers who were hospitalised after taking unsafe health supplements. These products which were found to contain potent steroids were bought overseas.
HSA, on being informed about the cases, immediately issued a warning to consumers about the product.
Consumers also have a part to play in keeping safe. They should do their own checks on health products and the potential risks before buying them over the Internet or from overseas.
Consumers should also buy health products from reliable sources and consult a doctor or pharmacist when they are unsure.
Chan Cheng Leng (Associate Professor)
Health Products Regulation Group
Health Sciences Authority