Date Published: 13 July 2005

Latest News: European Food Supplements Directive, due to come into force 1 August 2005.

Health News from the United Kingdom (UK).

Most of Britain's many health practitioners, therapists, and users of vitamins, minerals, and other natural supplements are already acutely aware of the highly controversial European Food Supplements Directive. This was approved by EU governments in 2002, and health food manufacturers had until 12 July 2005 to submit scientific dossiers proving that their ingredients were safe. Supplements failing to qualify by August 1 would be banned.

These proposals caused controversy and mass objections from the start. They included a petition of more than a million signatures, a letter of protest to Tony Blair from more than 300 doctors and scientists, and motions opposing the law in both Houses of Parliament.

This directive will oblige manufacturers to submit all natural remedies, vitamin supplements and mineral plant extracts for approval and inclusion on a list of recognized food supplements.

Although a list of 112 substances passed fit for consumption has been prepared, many popular substances, such as selenium yeast, tin, manganese and vitamin K2, have been omitted and currently remain subject to 505 separate appeals. Consequently, many popular supplements such as Viridian High-Five, Nature’s Plus Source of Life, and Holland & Barrett Vitamin C-1 could soon be outlawed as soon as 1 August 2005.

What is the latest news about its progress ?

The Alliance for Natural Health, backed by the British Health Food Manufacturers’ Association and the National Association of Health Stores challenged this legislation but lost an appeal against the introduction of the Food Supplements Directive at the European Court of Justice on 12th July 2005.

The European Court’s decision to reject British claims that the law is a breach of EU rules disappointed campaigners, who said that it could put many of manufacturers out of business. This ruling also went against the opinion of the court’s top legal adviser, who said in April that the directive should be scrapped for contravening basic EU principles of “legal protection, legal certainty and sound administration”.

Nevertheless, judges ruled that:

A ‘positive list’ system is appropriate for securing the free movement of food supplements and ensuring the protection of human health”.

They added that an application to have a substance included could be refused only after a full risk assessment.

What happens next ?

The directive comes in two stages: enforcement of types of ingredient in supplements from August 2005, and a second ruling in 2006 about quantities of different nutrients allowed.

Patricia Hewitt, the Health Secretary, said that Britain would use its EU presidency to ensure that the laws do not deny products to people. She said that she would fight for a sensible implementation of the directive. John Bowis, Tory Health spokesman in the European Parliament, estimated that 300 nutrients and nutrient sources in Britain would now be banned unless they obtained inclusion on a positive list — a move requiring “excessive levels of testing and red tape”.

Source: This was widely reported in the UK media.

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