European herb group issues fact file to clear botanical air

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Herb

The European Botanical Forum (EBF) has released a “communication tool” it says will “correct some commonly-held misapprehensions about botanical food supplements”.

These included safety levels and the long-debated borderline between medicinal and food herbs, a borderline the European Union has attempted to resolve in part by creating a third category under the Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directives (THMPD).

Commenting on such misapprehensions, EBF chairman Manfred Ruthsatz noted regulations such as the THMPD had gone a long way to clarifying the regulatory uncertainty better than at any time in the past.

“This fact file clarifies and shows that the extensive regulatory framework for botanical food supplements is fully adequate to ensure their safety and quality,”​ he said.

“Botanicals have a long history of providing health benefits and are subject to regulations which specifically require that the claims made are not misleading and can be scientifically substantiated.”

He added: “Botanical food supplements and herbal medicinal products follow two distinct and separate legal frameworks, hence fully justifying their co-existence side by side.”

In principal, herbal products that fall under the THMPD perform medicinal roles but are not subject to pharmaceutical regulations.

Herbal history

The EBF, founded in 2004 to encourage debate between industry, government and the scientific community on behalf of European food supplements manufacturers, said its new document outlined the history and role of plants and botanicals in nutrition.

The Brussels-based group said there was a need for such a fact file “in light of the growing popularity of botanical food supplements on the European market.”

The document, titled “An introduction to the role, safety and benefits of botanical food supplements”,​ highlighted botanical safety assessment methodologies; sought to clarify the borderline between medicinal and culinary use of herbs; as well as substantiate health claims for botanicals.

“Advances in research and technology have meant that the health-promoting benefits of botanicals can be captured, preserved and presented in a convenient form that can be made widely available,”​ said Ruthsatz.

“The development of botanical food supplements enables an ever-growing number of consumers in our increasingly urbanised society to safely and easily use botanicals to both maintain and optimise their health.”

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