EU food law fight must go on, says Irish MEP

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Food supplements, European union

The need for ongoing lobbying and industry effort has been reiterated at a Dublin health foods and supplements convention, with Irish right wing Member of the European Parliament (MEP), Kathy Sinnott, calling on the industry to up its game or face extinction.

Speaking at the Rude Health show, Sinnott criticised the European Commission’s approach to food law and said industry must continue lobbying for amendments to regulations such as the Food Supplements Directive (FSD) and the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD).

Sinnott said nutrient-depleted foods had led to greater population-wide rates of unwellness. But potential solutions such as those offered by healthy and functional foods as well as food supplements were being curtailed by restrictive European food laws that were misinterpreting the notion of public safety.

Speaking to industry at the Irish Association of Health Stores (IAHS) annual dinner, she said in regard to those laws, “You are the ones who remind people that there is another way and that that way will be found in nature. [But]Once again consumers will be the real losers along with SMEs, including health stores who will be unable to survive​.”

Sinnott was unavailable for comment to elaborate on her remarks by the time of publication.

Head in the sand

IAHS president Jill Bell told NutraIngredients.com companies in Ireland and other member states had to “pull their heads out of the sand” ​and increase lobbying efforts or face devastation when the THMPD deadline is reached in April, 2011.

IAHS’s concerns were raised when a questionnaire regarding THMPD-readiness sent to 30 of its members went virtually unanswered.

“It would seem there are lot of people in this industry who think that someone else will do the work that is required if we are not all to be severely damaged by this legislation,”​ she said.

Bell was encouraged by the recent formation of Herba Sacra in the UK, a group whose membership includes major supplements manufacturers such as Solgar as well as the UK National Association of Health Stores (NAHS). Herba Sacra has set itself the task of lobbying for amendments to the THMPD.

It wants the 2011 deadline extended as well as an easing of pharmaceutical-style testing protocols, among other reforms.

Meleni Aldridge, development manager at UK campaign group, the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), said such protocols were inappropriate for the herbals industry and meant virtually all multi-ingredient products would fail the registration process. ANH also welcomed Herba Sacra, she said.

“I know there are companies that say we should just accept the situation and get on with it, but they are companies with single herb products that are suited to this legislation,”​ Aldridge told NutraIngredients.com.

“What people don’t seem to realise is that unless there are amendments 1000s of products are going to be removed from shelves across Europe come April, 2011.”

Speaking at Rude Health in Dublin, Dr Robert Verkerk, IAHS scientific advisor and ANH executive director said:

When a regulation forces supplement companies to limit selenium to the amount found in less than one brazil nut, or natural beta-carotene to less than that found in one carrot, you know that the risk management models being used are faulty.”

“ We are a long way down the track towards proposing modifications to the existing models and proposed risk management options. If implemented in place of the draconian measures currently mooted, they would not only ensure consumers are properly protected, but annihilation of many of the SMEs representing the leading edge of the natural products industry could be avoided. Governments should be aware that survival and growth of this sector is vital if disease prevention strategies are to be prioritised.​”

In regard to the FSD, both IAHS and ANH welcomed the acceptance of a submission on maximum permitted levels of nutrients in food supplements by a European Union petitions committee, which was expected to convene by year’s end.

“This reopens the food supplements debate,”​ said Bell.

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