EU VMS maximum levels draw closer

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food safety authority European union European parliament Dietary mineral Efsa

A meeting held yesterday in Dublin has confirmed European Commission/European Food Safety Authority (EFSA) scientific safety substantiation principles in the setting of maximum permitted levels (MPLs) for vitamins and minerals in food supplements.

The mini-conference was organised by the Food Safety Authority of Ireland (FSAI) and attended by EU regulators, the Irish government and industry groups, ahead of EU-wide draft MPLs – which are expected to be published by the end of March. The setting of MPLs falls under the remit of the 2002 Food Supplements Directive (FSD)

Retailers and consumers – who have been highly vocal in fighting to preserve Ireland’s high-dose market – were also in attendance.

While positions expressed by the four speakers varied greatly, there were few surprises from the increasingly anachronistic position of the Irish government that seeks to base MPLs on multiples of recommended daily allowances (RDAs), to the ongoing criticism of EFSA’s MPL scientific assessment model from the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH) and Irish Association of Health Stores (IAHS).

Too conservative?

The ANH/IAHS support the principle of safety as opposed to RDA levels that are based on levels required to ward off illness rather than promote wellness, but feel the risk analysis model that is likely being followed by EFSA is too conservative and will result in MPLs they say will decimate the industry in liberal regimes like Ireland, the UK, the Netherlands and Sweden.

Speaking at the event, the ANH’s executive and scientific director Dr Robert Verkerk said EFSA’s model would, “discriminate against those wanting to support their health with naturally-derived, food-state or even nature-identical nutrients.”

But Basil Mathioudakis, the head of the EC’s food law, nutrition and labelling unit, said there were no changes intended in the EC’s conservative scientific substantiation principles as followed by EFSA.

He said, “…the Commission’s objectives are to ensure availability of a wide choice of safe products for consumers and the free movement of goods, which of course is the Lisbon agenda.”

In response, chair of the IAHS, Jill Bell, told more hope lay with the European Parliament, where “there was more openness and willingness to ensure MPLs are set at levels that won’t decimate national industries and provide maximum benefit to public health”.

She said Parliament activity may increase if the draft MPLs are published in March.

The middle ground

Somewhere in the middle is the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), along with the Irish Health Trade Association (IHTA), which supports the safety-based approach being taken by EFSA.

EHPM’s director of regulatory affairs, Lorene Courrege, did not speak at, but attended yesterday’s Dublin meeting, and said her group backed the positive approach being taken by the EC/EFSA.

“There were no big surprises here,” ​she told from London. “Of course the Irish government support for RDAs is increasingly isolated especially since the EC has said this method is not legal.”

She pointed out that the Word Health Organization (WHO) backed a safety-based approach.

The other speakers were Dr Mary Flynn, the chief specialist in Public Health Nutrition for the FSAI and Dr Alan Ruth, chief executive officer of the IHTA.

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