Waiting game continues in high dose supplement battle

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Vitamin European union

A further delay in the publication of the EU draft amendment of the maximum permitted levels (MPLs) for nutrients in food supplements leaves the UK and other member states' high dose supplements industry with still all to play for.

The figures on dose levels under the EU Food Supplements Directive were expected this month from the Commission but UK industry group, the Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA), said that, based on information they had received, the limits would be set in January of next year.

There was no comment from the DG Sanco Health & Consumer Protection at the EC in relation to confirmation of a release date for the MPLs at the time of publication.

The HFMA told Nutralngredients.com said that, in the interim, it will continue to argue for the application of safety-based risk management and “the continued availability of the popular specialist vitamin/mineral supplements that have been sold safely in the UK for many years.”

Safety approach

UK lobby group, Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) fears that high dose supplements containing vitamin C, calcium, magnesium, beta-carotene, zinc and nickel as well as 700 retail outlets would be under threat if the EU dose levels prove too restrictive.

It is urging UK Health Minister Gillian Merron to press the UK’s case strongly in Brussels.

In response to CHC demands, the minister said that the UK government was working to ‘get the right balance that will achieve appropriate MPLs,’​ and that it remained committed to a safety based approach to the application of the legislation, according to an article in Natural Products News.

Liberal consensus

Other European countries such as the Netherlands, Sweden and Ireland would also see their high dose supplements industry under threat if MPLs are set low.

Irish MEP Kathy Sinnott has long criticised restricting the dose levels and she argues that consumers should have the right to protect their health with vitamins and minerals at the dose and form that they require, “especially when there is no evidence of lack of safety of currently used dosages.”

Lack of harmony

Across Europe levels for minerals and vitamins differ radically from country to country. A study by the Association of the European Self-Medication Industry (AESGP) found Belgium, for example, had maximum levels which varied between 1.5 and three times the recommended daily allowance (RDA) with a minimum level of 1.5 per cent RDA.

By comparison Denmark varied on the maximum level from 1.8 to 1300 times RDA, and a higher minimum level of 30 to 33 per cent of RDA. Some countries had no minimum level, including Estonia, which had a maximum level inline with RDA.

However, the CHC and the HFMA favour a case whereby high-dose supplements are permitted accompanied by warnings if there are special population sub-groups who should not consume them such as, in some cases, children and pregnant women.


The CHC also expressed their concern to the minister over herbal legislation, claiming the cost of compliance was proving prohibitive, particularly for smaller manufacturers and they noted that only a fraction of products in the market are currently registered under the MHRA scheme as a result.

“We do accept there are challenges with herbals,”​ continued Merron, “but we also believe we are seeing some real progress.” ​She stressed that over 90 herbal product submissions have been made with 46 licences now granted.

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