On the labels of food supplements you often see RI. RI is an abbreviation for reference intake and it indicates how much the vitamins and minerals in the supplement contribute to the daily needs of a healthy adult. The amount of vitamins and minerals in a dietary supplement is stated on the label as a percentage (%) of the reference intake.
Reference intakes are statutory guideline values set by the European Commission. The obligation to use RI on packaging applies throughout Europe. In this way you can compare the amount of vitamins and minerals in food supplements in Europe.
Reference intake is a rough indication
The reference intake does not take into account gender, age or your personal situation. It is only a rough indication of the amount of vitamins and minerals a healthy adult needs on a daily basis. The reference intake is intended to prevent deficiencies in the majority of the population and therefore no guideline for optimal intake. Because everyone is different and lives differently, the individual need for nutrients can differ from the RI and sometimes (much) higher. The EFSA has set safe upper limits for daily intake for a number of vitamins and minerals, but many nutrients are so safe that an upper limit for safe intake can not be established.
Dietary standards of the Health Council
Reference intake may differ from the dietary reference values. Dietary reference values are recommendations for the amount of a vitamin or mineral that a specific population group needs daily instead of the average adult. In the Netherlands, the Health Council sets the dietary standards. These recommendations do take into account age, gender and a certain situation, such as pregnancy. A few examples: for folic acid an RI of 200 micrograms applies, while the Health Council advises pregnant women 400 micrograms of folic acid per day. For vitamin D an RI of 5 micrograms applies, while the Health Council advises older people over the age of 70 20 micrograms.
RI or ADH?
A few years ago in the Netherlands the RI on the label of a dietary supplement could also be shown as ADH, this stands for Recommended Daily Allowance. These two terms could be used interchangeably, but nowadays it has been agreed to only display RI on a label. ADH will thus disappear from the jars again.