Full post: A couple of weeks ago I learned from BBC1's Watchdog that it might actually be illegal for companies to sell Raspberry Ketone products in the UK (if you've bought some online with a credit or debit card you may be able to get your money back - there's no evidence they help with weight loss), and tweeted the following:
It's illegal for Raspberry Ketones to be sold in the UK as a diet supplement (hence sales from abroad). Use chargeback to recover any money.
— Jo Brodie (@JoBrodie) July 2, 2014
Were I sending that tweet now I'd probably add a couple of caveats: (1) I don't know what sort of crime it is (unfair trading? mislabelling?) or what the punishment would be (fine more likely than jail I'd think) and (2) it seems to depend on the type of product on sale.
In October last year the Food Standards Agency (FSA) opened up a consultation with people who sell raspberry ketone products and asked for information about the products. One thing the FSA were keen to find was evidence that these products had been widely consumed in the UK since before 1997.
Under Regulation (EC) 258/97, novel foods and food ingredients may only be marketed if they have been evaluated and authorised under the procedures defined in the regulation. A novel food or ingredient is defined as one that was not consumed to a significant degree in the European Community before 15 May 1997. Raspberry ketones have not been authorised under this regulation.
The Agency is not aware of any evidence for a history of consumption of raspberry ketones anywhere in the EU before May 1997 and we are therefore minded to view it to be a novel food, which cannot be sold legally until it has been formally authorised. As such, any companies who wish to market foods containing raspberry ketones in the EU will need to apply for an authorisation under Regulation (EC) 258/97. Such an authorisation would require the submission of a dossier to one of the 28 EU Member States, demonstrating that the ingredient (a) does not present a risk to the consumer; (b) does not mislead the consumer; and (c) is not nutritionally disadvantageous compared with other foods that it might replace in the diet.
Source: Request for information from businesses: Raspberry ketones FSA 24 October 2013 [emphasis added by me]
In March they published their findings and I have to say I'm still a bit confused. Very reasonably the FSA makes a distinction between different types of raspberry ketone products noting that some can be sold without problem, but that some need to have some sort of authorisation.
Some raspberry ketones are fine...
"We received and reviewed information from a small number of interested parties. We have confirmed that some raspberry fruit extracts, which may or not be marketed as “raspberry ketones”, are outside the definition of a novel food, based on conclusions reached in other EU Member States. This is limited to extracts prepared using water or 20% ethanol (1:4 ethanol:water). These extracts therefore do not require authorisation as novel foods."
Source: Raspberry ketones (letter to interested parties) FSA 12 March 2014 [emphasis added by me]
but some are not...
"We have not received any other information that provides evidence of a history of significant consumption of raspberry ketones prior to 15 May 1997. We therefore remain of the view that raspberry ketones, other than the extracts mentioned above, are novel and fall within the scope of the EU legislation on novel foods.
Under Regulation (EC) 258/97, novel foods and food ingredients may only be legally marketed in the EU if they have been evaluated and authorised under the procedures defined in the regulation, raspberry ketones have not undergone this process. Any companies who wish to market a novel food in the EU will need to gain an EU authorisation under Regulation (EC) 258/97. Such an authorisation would require the submission of a dossier to one of the 28 EU member states, demonstrating that the product a) does not present a risk to the consumer; b) does not mislead the consumer; and c) is not nutritionally disadvantageous compared with other foods that it might replace in the diet." Source: as above, 12 March 2014 [emphasis added by me]
"This advice does not apply to the use of the chemical substance “Raspberry ketone” (4-(p-hydroxyphenyl)butan-2-one) as a flavouring. This compound is a permitted flavouring substance in the EU and small amounts of raspberry ketone can be used as a flavouring, in compliance with the EU Flavourings Regulation (1334/2008/EC). If used for any other purpose it would have to comply with the novel foods regulation." Source: as above, 12 March 2014 [emphasis added by me]
There seem to be three different classes of raspberry ketones
(1) Those that are a particular kind of water / ethanol extract
(2) Naughty raspberry ketones that can't be sold without authorisation
(3) The butan-2-one chemical compound
If you're buying raspberry ketones online or from Holland & Barrett (really, really don't bother, try and get your money back, there's no evidence that they can do anything for weight loss) then how do consumers know whether the product is being sold legally (though uselessly), or illegally as a novel food of unknown safety (also uselessly).
I had a look at the online Holland and Barrett shop page for Raspberry Ketones and didn't find any information about EU authorisation.
Similarly I've no idea if the raspberry ketones on offer from Groupon are being marketed legally or not. I've asked them to clarify.
Groupon selling raspberry ketones. Is that allowed? CC @_JosephineJones @JoBrodie pic.twitter.com/cpVLtJJMN0Personally I don't think anyone should be wasting money on these products at all but if you do want to, how do you know which ones are "OK" to buy? There seems to be insufficient information for consumers.
— NurtureMyBaby (@NurtureMyBaby) July 27, 2014