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How to understand an equine supplement label?

Labels, what a drama sometimes to get clear what exactly is in them. It’s full of legal obligations and, ofcourse, the “sales pitch”. But even that sales pitch is sometimes very cryptically defined. So how should you actually read a label?

Labels horse feed and supplements are different!

We always insist that you should go through the labels of a feed bag carefully so that you know exactly what the ingredients are and also that you go through the analysis carefully. After all, that info says a lot about how good this feed is for horses. With horse feed, for example, you don’t want it to be full of grains and you want the sugar and starch percentage to be low. Unfortunately, this knowledge about horse food labels is not entirely applicable to horse supplement labels. It has different legislation and therefore you need to read the labels differently.

Lots of legislation regarding a label of an equine supplement!

For us as a brand, it is a challenge to format the labels correctly. We want to tell as much as possible about how the product works, what it contains and what problems you can use a product for. But then… legislation comes around the corner and it prohibits and obliges us in a huge way. We are hardly allowed to say anything about how the product works on the labels and in terms of naming the composition of the product, we are also bound by legislation. The NVWA (Dutch Food and Consumer Product Safety Authority) has drawn up very specific regulations for label layout (based on European rules). We follow these rules, but unfortunately this means that labels are sometimes unclear to consumers. For instance, we are not allowed to put on labels that it can be used against mud fever, laminitis, sweet itch or other conditions. There should be no claim that the product helps against a problem or that it cures a problem. Hence, you often read product texts that are not very clear, unfortunately. So this is not because we do not want to mention more, but because we are not allowed to mention more.

What is obligated on a label?

Labels are full of obligations; for example, the following must always appear on them:

  • “Feed material” or “Supplementary feed”
  • Instructions for use
  • Content, batch number and best-before date
  • Composition and any additives
  • Analytical data
  • Product owner and producer number

And within these headings, the information must also comply with certain regulations. For example, the composition may only include feed materials. A feed material is a substance that actually feeds the horse, so for example magnesium oxide or sodium chloride. Not everything is a feed material; a European list has been compiled for this. If an ingredient is not on this list, it may be an additive (e.g. vitamins and many herbal extracts). But because it is split up, it can sometimes appear that the composition of a supplement is very “unhealthy” and contains almost no active substances, while in reality the product is full of herbal extracts.

So how do you read a label of a HELTIE supplement?

As an example, let’s take the label of a herbal respiratory supplement. This is a label that when you first see it, you think it contains almost no functional ingredients to support the respiratory system. But that is a trick of the eyes, because this product is made up of more than 99% herbal extracts! We understand that this causes huge confusion, but this way it complies with the legal guidelines.

This product consists of herbal extracts and added vitamin C. This automatically makes it a complementary animal feed. And to legally call it a complementary feed, it does need to have 2 feed materials added to it. These 2 feed materials should be listed under “composition”. In the case of this respiratory product, it contains only 0.01% magnesium sulphate and 0.01% magnesium chloride. But it shows otherwise!

Herbal extracts are listed under additives under the heading “Sensory additives”. This is the collective name for herbal extracts, tinctures and flavourings. This makes you feel as a consumer that there is only magnesium in this product with a little bit of additives.

Also read the texts carefully!

On the basis of the composition and additives, you cannot tell exactly how a horse supplement is put together. However, you can see here whether products contain sugars; in the example above you can see that there are no sugars.

But to get more clarity about a product, also read the texts on the bottle carefully and don’t stare blindly at the columns. In the case of HELTIE, the text actually states which herbs it contains. Our products always contain large quantities of herbal extracts in high concentrations! We would prefer not to put the 2 feed ingredients in, but this is a legal requirement where the amount is fortunately only very minimal.

Conclusion: we are not allowed to mention everything!

Unfortunately, in terms of labels, we are bound by a lot of laws and regulations, and of course this is a good thing because it prevents a jumble of labels with false information. But for us as a brand, this presents a lot of challenges. Because ideally we would like to tell you everything about the product, what disorders it works against and we would like to give you a composition that directly shows what exactly is in it. Do you have questions about labels/ingredients? If so, feel free to contact us!

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