Lawyers called in over maximum levels battle

By Alex McNally

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food supplements directive, European union, Food standards agency

A legal opinion gained by the Health Food Manufacturers'
Association has been lauded as a "window of opportunity" for
industry over the EU's proposed rules on maximum mineral and
vitamin levels.

Under the 2002 Food Supplements Directive and the fortified foods regulation upper and lower levels for both nutrients would be harmonised across the bloc. However, the proposal has caused concern across members states who currently differ radically on what are acceptable levels in supplements. Many fear a "heavy handed" and restrictive approach to high doses would cause financial shockwaves across the industry. To add more weight to the argument calling for high level doses, the Health Food Manufacturer's Association (HFMA) has gathered advice from European food lawyer Jean Savigny. Savigny's opinion supports the use of higher levels set by safety standards. The work has been sent to the UKs Food Standards Agency and the European Commission, which is in charge of setting limits. The HFMA said that although major progress has been made in the commitment to setting safety-based levels, the threat remains that "politically expedient" low levels may be set. HFMA director David Adams said: "The HFMAs objectives are to ensure that the important goal of harmonisation is not achieved at the expense of the higher potency specialist supplements that have been supplied safely for years in the UK and other markets." ​ Savigny's work proposes that upper tiers should use the "conditions of use- advisory statements, would meet all relevant legal criteria, notably risk analysis, food safety, proportionality, and equal treatment." ​ The FSA favours a two tier system, with a lower level set by the commission, but with a facility for member states to add their own higher level, subject to appropriate labelling. This facility, the HFMA say, would not allow for a unified EU situation. Adams added that the EC orientation paper issued earlier this year indicates a safety based higher level was being considered, but no firm guarantees for upper levels were made. The legal opinion has been seen as a shot in the arm by industry lobbyists from Consumers for Health Choice (CHC). CHC member Chris Whitehouse, added: "The opinion delivers a paradigm shift in thinking and creates a window of opportunity for the European industry to unite to achieve the best possible outcome, founded on sound legal principles."​ The pressure group has also made several high profile announcements calling for higher levels. Last week the group took out an advert calling for the Commission president to stay away from restrictive levels. A working party of Member States is expected to sit down and discuss maximum health claims next week, and the Commission is expected to propose a directive with actual figures in 2009.

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