MANILA, Philippines–The Court of Appeals (CA) has upheld the Department of Health’s (DOH) order requiring all herbal companies to change the warning labels on their food and dietary supplements to make consumers more aware that the products have “no approved therapeutic claim” and are not medicine.
In a 10-page decision dated Nov. 28 and posted on the court’s website last week, the appeals tribunal’s Special Fourth Division favored the certiorari case filed by the DOH, represented by former Secretary Enrique Ona, against the Chamber of Herbal Industries of the Philippines.
The court also dissolved the writ of preliminary injunction issued by the Manila Regional Trial Court (RTC) in favor of the chamber, which had questioned the DOH administrative order.
“We agree with [the DOH’s] contention that [the chamber] has no cause of action against it because the assailed administrative order was issued as a valid exercise of the police power of the State for the prevention and protection of the general public which has the right to be informed of the nature and established curative effects of the food supplements they buy,” according to the decision written by Justice Edwin Sorongon.
“The purpose of the administrative order is to educate consumers that food supplements are not medicines that can cure illness and that food supplements are not substitutes for prescribed medicines. As cogently pointed out by the petitioner, the administrative order is reasonably necessary for the public to be informed about what dietary supplements are,” the court added.
The other division members, Justices Marlene Gonzales-Sison and Elihu Ybañez, concurred in the ruling.
Warning in bold letters
In March 2010, then Health Secretary Esperanza Cabral issued Administrative Order No. 2010-008 setting directives in the use of the message or phrase “No Approved Therapeutic Claim” in all advertisements, promotions and sponsorship activities or materials concerning food and dietary supplements.
The manufacturers, sellers and advertisers of supplements were to use the warning in Filipino, “Mahalagang Paalala: Ang (name of product) ay hindi gamot at hindi dapat gamiting panggamot sa anumang uri ng sakit.” (Important warning: the [name of product] is not a medicine and should not be used to treat any kind of ailment.)
The DOH regulation, among other things, required that the new message must be printed on visual ads and materials in capital and bold letters which must be at least one-third the size of the largest letter or the logo. On audio and audiovisual ads and materials, the message must be clearly and completely shown or said.
The chamber, an association of 65 companies engaged in manufacturing, development, research and distribution of herbal products, wanted the DOH to consider as substantial compliance with the administrative order the phrase, “Mahalagang Paalala (Name of Product) Ay Hindi Gamot.”