Be cautious of avian 'flu claims, warns coalition

By Staff Reporter

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Influenza

Consumers who encounter supplements that claim to prevent or cure
avian 'flu should exercise caution, according to an industry
coalition which holds that therapies should be recommended only by
qualified healthcare professionals or public health authorities.

The coalition consists of four industry associations: the American Herbal Products Association, the Council for Responsible Nutrition, the National Nutritional Foods Association, and the Consumer Healthcare Products Association.

In a statement issued Friday, it called on consumers, retailers and marketers of dietary supplements to be on their guard for products making avian 'flu claims. Such claims, in any case, are prohibited under federal law and regulations.

"We do not believe that any dietary supplements have been specifically shown to prevent or treat avian 'flu,"​ it said.

The position statement was issued partly in response to awareness of products already making claims, and partly as a preemptive measure to ward off potential criticism of the industry at large.

Judy Blatman, VP communications for CRN told "We believe that responsible supplement companies will not take advantage of consumers' fears about avian flu and try and market a product as a remedy for it."

However she added that the council has come across at least one website that has caused concern.

Despite legal position on supplements making avian 'flu claims, the coalition issued advice to marketers and retailers of dietary supplements: that they should refuse to stock or sell products presented as preventing, curing or treating avian 'flu, and to refrain from promoting any such products.

It also urged consumers who believe they may have avian 'flu or may have come into contact with it to contact a healthcare professional.

Since late 2003, avian flu in birds has spread throughout Asia, with isolated cases reported in Romania, Turkey, Kuwait and Croatia. There are fears that it could be carried around the world by migrating flocks, but the connection is hard to prove.

As at 17 November, 129 human cases and 67 deaths had been reported in China, Vietnam, Indonesia, Thailand and Cambodia. It is thought that the virus can be transmitted to humans only through close contact with infected birds, and that it is relatively rare.

However some experts have expressed fears that the disease could turn into a global pandemic if the virus mutates to be transmitted human-to-human.

To date no cases of avian 'flu, in either birds or humans, have been diagnosed in the United States.

Related topics: Regulation

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