Food supplements - EU harmonisation draws closer

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food supplements, European union, Council of the european union

Diverging legislation in Europe relating to food supplements came
closer towards harmonisation on Thursday when the European Council
agreed the proposed Directive on Food Supplements.

Diverging legislation in Europe relating to food supplements made one step towards harmonisation on Thursday when the European Council agreed the proposed Directive on Food Supplements. The Internal Market, Tourism and Consumer Affairs Council agreed a compromise text of the Belgian Presidency that sets out harmonised safety rules for food supplements that contain vitamins and minerals. It requires that maximum limits for vitamins and minerals intake will be set based on scientific risk assessment and data on vitamin and minerals intake from other foods, while also taking into account what is considered an adequate vitamin and mineral intake for an average person. Speaking at the The Internal Market, Tourism and Consumer Affairs Council this week European Commissioner David Byrne commented, "[The compromise] puts consumer safety and informed consumer choice first, and will solve the problems manufacturers face in marketing their products due to the current differences in national legislation."​ "The labels will give consumers detailed information on vitamin and mineral content and on daily use, including a warning about exceeding the intake as set out in the manufacturer's instructions." The objective of the proposal is two-fold. First, to set out a general framework and safety rules for food supplements. As a first step detailed rules on vitamins and minerals are laid down. The Commission will within the next five years come forward with a report and appropriate measures on other types of ingredients used in food supplements. According to the Commission, the second objective is to give the consumer detailed information on the label to ensure consumers can make an informed choice. Under the new proposed legislation labels on, for example, bottles of vitamin pills will have to include clear instructions for daily dosage, a warning about possible health risk in case of excess use, and a statement that the pills should not be used as a substitute for a varied diet. Claims that the product can prevent, treat or cure illness are prohibited. Any language suggesting that a varied diet does not provide the necessary amounts of essential nutrients is equally prohibited. The Directive defines as food supplements all foodstuffs that are concentrated sources of nutrients, alone or in combination, marketed in dose form, whose purpose is to supplement the intake of those nutrients in the normal diet. Food supplements can be sold in different 'dose forms,' such as capsules, tablets, pills and other similar forms, sachets of powder, ampoules of liquids and drop dispensing bottles. The full text of the original Commission proposal of May 2000 is available here​. The proposed Directive on Food Supplements is part of the package of measures announced in the Commission's White Paper on Food safety. It is based on article 95 and has to be agreed by the European Parliament and the Council of Ministers in co-decision. It is intended to enter into force on 31 May 2002, allowing the marketing of products complying with the directive as of June 2002 and prohibiting the marketing of products which do not respect its rules by June 2004 at the latest.

Related topics: Regulation & Policy, Suppliers, Supplements

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