The European Commission has issued a strong statement denouncing claims in many UK newspapers yesterday that the proposed new rules for vitamin supplements would push thousands of companies out of business.
"The proposed legislation sets out safety rules for food supplements that contain vitamins and minerals. These food supplements are sold in the form of pills and capsules," the Commission said in the statement.
"The aim of the directive is to bring existing legislation in individual EU Member States in line with each other, to ensure that all ingredients in food supplements are safe and to ensure that manufacturers of vitamins and minerals which have not been assessed by the EU Scientific Committee provide information to allow this work to be carried out.
"In the next few years, Commission directives will set maximum levels for vitamins/minerals in food supplements on the basis of criteria set out in the framework directive. This will mean that a certain level of vitamin or mineral cannot be exceeded." The statement continued: "Detailed labelling will give clear information to the consumer. Bottles of vitamin pills will have to include clear instructions about daily dosage, a warning about the possible health risks from excess use and a statement that the pills should not be used as a substitute to a balanced diet.
"Consumer organisations and the majority of the food supplement industry are in favour of this legislation."
The Commission then roundly criticised some manufacturers which it claimed had been actively campaigning against the directive. It said that the newspaper reports claiming that up to 300 supplements currently available in the UK could be banned because of the regulations reflected the success of this campaign.
"Those who feel their interests would be threatened by these new rules have orchestrated this campaign. They have misrepresented the aims of the directive, used misleading arguments and are misinforming the public," the statement said.
"The aim of the directive is NOT to ban vitamins but to ensure that products on the market are safe to be consumed as supplements to a normal diet. We are not putting hundreds of health food stores out of business. We owe this work to our consumers while at the same time assuming those supplements currently on the market are safe. Business has a responsibility to only put safe products on the market."