David Pineda Ereño, a consultant based in Brussels, has long studied the Latin American markets for dietary supplements and functional foods. Prior to opening his own shop, which is called DPE Consulting, Pineda covered Latin America for the EAS consultancy.
The regulatory picture in Latin America is a jumbled one, and Pineda has said in the past that it can be a challenge to get new products and ingredients on the market there. In speaking with NutraIngredients-USA at the recent GOED Exchange meeting in Seattle, Pineda said that with the notable exception of Brazil, government agencies in many of the smaller markets look to other regulatory authorities, in particular the European Food Safety Authority, for cues on the regulation of dietary ingredients.
As a result, with their long history of use and safety within Europe, omega-3s have had little difficulty clearing regulatory hurdles in any country in the region.
Brazilian regulatory overhaul
Pineda said an impending change in the regulatory structure in Brazil will benefit omega-3s and other forms of dietary supplements. As the regulations exist, the definitions of where a particular product falls within that structure are arcane and confusing, leading to expense, delay and uncertainty in getting ingredients and finished goods onto the market.
“With the change in regulations we are going to have a broad definition of food supplements,” Pineda said.
As far as consumer acceptance of the products are concerned, there’s good news there, too, Pineda said. Many consumers are aware of the benefits of omega-3s, he said.
More work could be done, however, on getting national health authorities to specifically recommend the ingredients to their citizens. Fish consumption varies by locale within the region, with some coastal regions ranking fairly high on this scale, and most inland areas ranking low.
In Peru, for example, there is a government program in place to try to encourage more of the population to eat the local anchovies, which are by a huge margin the largest global source of omega-3s raw material. Even though Peruvian fishermen catch millions of tons of these small, oily fish every year, few are consumed locally. But that program has more to do with providing a cheap source of high quality protein than it does with getting more omega-3s into the diet, he said.