Food supplements

Food supplements are food products which differ from normal foods by either their appearance or the way in which they are used. Food supplements often visually resemble medicines: they can be pills, capsules or herbal extracts, for example. On the basis of their composition, however, food supplements are foods and governed by the Food Act. Food supplements include e.g. products designed for the intake of e.g. vitamins, minerals, fibre, fatty acids and lecithin as well as herbal, garlic and bee products.

Food supplements are not medicines. The ingredients used in food supplements should not have medicinal effects, and it is prohibited to suggest they have properties that would prevent, treat or cure diseases in humans.

Ordering food supplements online

Consumers should be particularly careful when ordering food supplements online. A product may contain medical substances that pose a health risk. The person who orders the product is responsible for finding out whether is classified as a food supplement or a medicine.

  • For more information about products classified as medicines, go to Fimea's website.


Points to consider

The EU has common legislation on food supplements (Directive 2002/46/EC of the European Parliament and of the Council relating to food supplements), but e.g. some products marketed as food supplements in the USA may be classified as medicines or normal foodstuffs in Finland.

Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry Decree on Food Supplements (78/2010) (available in Finnish and Swedish)

For more information about the legislation on food supplements, go to the website of Evira.


Read more

  • If the product turns out to be a medicine, it will be subject to the general conditions for the import of medicines. More information: Medicines
  • Evira – Food supplements
  • Fimea – Medicines and food supplements
  • Fimea – Classification of medicines

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Keywords Food supplements

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