The parallel cases brought by industry trade bodies the National Association of Health Stores and Health Food Manufacturers' Association, as well as the health campaign group Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), have been listed for hearing on 25 January 2005, just a little less than a year after they gained the legal right to challenge the European Commission in an English high court.
The groups argue that the EU Food Supplements Directive, passed in 2002 and set to enter into force in August next year, will see around 270 nutrients currently included in supplements removed from the market and significant damage to UK trade.
Many of the nutrients not included on a 'positive list' under the new directive are only available in the more developed supplement markets but industry claims these are also the source of innovation.
British companies also expect the directive (2002/46/EC) to restrict the sale of many higher dose nutrients, such as antioxidant vitamins C, B6 and E and essential minerals including selenium and zinc, currently available in the UK and other more liberal countries like Ireland and Sweden but not permitted in many other European nations.
The groups have welcomed the early hearing date, given the fast-approaching deadline for implementation of the directive in August next year.
Dr Robert Verkerk, ANH executive director, commented: "We are delighted that an early hearing date has now been set and are hopeful that the European Court in Luxembourg will invalidate the quite unnecessary ban on the wide range of perfectly safe natural, food-derived ingredients which comprise most of the advanced food supplements."