The campaign against the new EU food supplements directive is gathering pace as the Alliance for Natural Health announces it will also take legal proceedings to see the directive declared invalid under European law.
The action by the group, which represents supplement manufacturers, retailers, practitioners and consumers in Ireland, Sweden, Italy and the UK, follows a similar attempt now underway in the UK by a number of its trade associations, including the Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA).
The ANH says its lawyers, from Brick Court Chambers and The Simkins Partnership in London, will try to prove that the ban, likely to remove a significant number of supplements from the UK, is not only unnecessary, but unlawful.
"There is absolutely no justification for this ban and we aim to get it removed," said Dr Rob Verkerk, executive director of the ANH.
The organisation says that the directive will put hundreds of small businesses at risk. Mike Ash, managing director of Nutri-Link Limited, a UK manufacturer and supplier of supplements, explained: "The directive bans many of our most popular products and forces us and many other manufacturers needlessly to reformulate other key products. The cost to us to reformulate tried and tested products to comply with the directive is enormous."
"To develop a single product can take months of careful assessment and analysis. If we have to spend our time until August 2005 reformulating existing products to comply with the directive we cannot develop new products. In many instances, reformulation will not be possible at all as the most important ingredients of the product will be banned by the directive. The ban is a catastrophe for our business and customers," he said.
The list of nutrients and nutrient sources permitted by the directive does not include almost 300 ingredients currently available in the UK, including organic bound minerals like selenocysteine and many trace elements used in supplements, such as boron and vanadium.
The ANH argues that many advanced natural and well-absorbed vitamin and mineral nutrients will be banned, while the old-fashioned, often synthetic or inorganic forms, which tend to be much less effective, will be permitted.
While it is difficult to see how such moves will halt the directive, due to come into force in August 2005 and currently being implemented in member states, ANH claims that its challenge, alongside that of the UK associations, will pose considerable difficulty for the European Commission.