Commission told: Stay away from restrictive maximum levels

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food supplements directive European union European commission

As member states are due to sit down next week to discuss the
setting of maximum mineral and vitamin levels lobbyists have said
there is "everything still to play for."

The proposed European Commission ruling is aimed at harmonizing levels across the bloc for supplements and fortified foods. Member states at the moment vary dramatically on maximum and minimum levels, which would come to an end once Europe-wide unification is imposed. But many groups fear a heavy-handed approach could damage trade and consumer choice. Lobbyists at Consumers for Health Choice - which has already issued a plea to the commission president to stay away from restrictive levels -- met the UK's Food Standards Agency (FSA) on Friday for an update on the setting of high-end levels. They were told a working group meeting of all member states will be held on September 24. The FSA also said the commission was aiming to propose a directive with actual figures in 2009. The setting of maximum levels forms part of the 2002 Food Supplements Directive, which also covers fortified foods. Although Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) welcomed the update, a spokesperson added that: "There remain major battles ahead, but armed with good legal arguments and sound science there is everything still to play for." ​ CHC on Friday also took out an open letter to commission president José Manuel Barroso in an advert in the newspaper European Voice. Mike Peet, CHC chairman, warns that the EU risks being seen as "aloof, distant and unresponsive"​ if it takes an overly restrictive approach. In the letter he warned Barroso that: "[officials] may promote levels which are unnecessarily restrictive - having a disproportionate impact upon consumer choice and upon specialist manufacturers and retailers in member states. "A restrictive interpretation of this legislation is contrary to the principles of Union law and unwarranted on consumer protection grounds. A heavy-handed approach will damage responsible smaller and medium sized enterprises by removing their unique selling point of specialist products; and will expose consumers to increased risk from unregulated internet and mail-order sales from outside the Union." ​ Last week politicians, consumers and nutritional therapists gathered at a public meeting in Dublin to vent further fears over the rules. Anne Darcy, president of the Irish Association of Nutritional Therapists, said depleted nutrient levels in soil have resulted in food being seriously compromised nutritionally. She said: "It is quite shocking that humans are going to be denied access to the levels of nutrients necessary to compensate for the nutritional inadequacy in common foodstuffs under this directive."​ A consumer campaign is currently being run in the country, petitioning both the Irish government and EC to ensure a continued access to high level supplements. Jill Bell, President of the Irish Association of Health Stores, added that "outrage" created by the directive could have a knock-on effect of leaving many hundreds of people "unwilling to give a 'yes' vote" in a referendum for the EU Treaty. She added: "The Food Supplements Directive seems to have stirred a hornet's nest in relation to people's feelings about the EU. People are becoming angry about the degree to which Brussels is interfering with our basic freedoms."

Related topics Suppliers

Related news

Show more

Follow us


View more