Fitness supplements: guidelines, labelling and regulation

A food supplement with mineral levels above prescription levels is classified as a medicine


The Food Safety Authority of Ireland is responsible for regulating food supplements under various European Directives transposed into Irish law.

They define a “food supplement” as “foodstuffs the purpose of which is to supplement the normal diet and which are concentrated sources of nutrients or other substances with a nutritional or physiological effect, alone or in combination, marketed in dose form, namely forms such as capsules, pastilles, tablets, pills and other similar forms, sachets of powder, ampoules of liquids, drop-dispensing bottles, and other similar forms of liquids and powders designed to be taken in measured small unit quantities”.

A food supplement with vitamin and/or mineral levels at, or above, specified prescription levels will be classified as a medicine, and regulated by the Health Products Regulatory Authority.



Food supplement labelling or advertising must not make claims about preventing, treating or curing disease, or make any reference to doing so. The label must include: A warning not to exceed the stated recommended daily dose.

A statement to the effect that food supplements should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet.

A statement to the effect that the products should be stored out of the reach of young children.

In addition, as good practice, manufacturers can provide information for consumers on who the product is suitable for, and so on.


Do not take a supplement just because a team mate or a competitor is taking it or recommends it.

Do not take any supplements made by a company that also manufactures substances on the WADA Prohibited List due to the risk of cross contamination.

Do not take any supplements that make claims that sound too good to be true. Always validate product claims through non-biased sources.

Do not take any supplements made by a company which in the past has been associated with positive drugs tests.

Do not buy supplements either over the internet or through magazines as they are more likely to be associated with an increased risk of inadvertent doping, adverse health effects and other associated problems.

Do not exceed the recommended dose. Remember, more is not always better. Excessive use of one vitamin or mineral can have a negative impact on the availability or absorption of another. The recommended daily allowances (RDA) for vitamins and minerals should be used as a guide in determining nutritional needs.

Source: Irish Sports Council