UK high dose supplement campaign seeks PM intervention

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food supplements European union

The campaign to ensure higher potency food supplements can remain on the UK market is stepping up a gear with a motion tabled in the UK Parliament seeking the prime minister to intervene directly.

Conservative MP Mike Pennings, in a parliamentary motion this week, called on UK prime minister Gordon Brown to intervene with the European Commission president, José Manuel Barroso, to ensure that the right of UK manufacturers to produce, specialist retailers to sell, and informed consumers to choose to buy ‘safe and popular supplements is not unacceptably curtailed through an unnecessarily restrictive interpretation of the legislation.’

He said successive ministers have pledged to defend the future availability of such supplements but have not yet secured sufficient support from other member states.

Proposals for maximum permitted levels (MPLs) for vitamins and minerals in food supplements under Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive are expected to be published by the Commission in early 2010.

UK advocates such as the Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), the National Association of Health Stores (NAHS), and the Health Food Manufacturers Association (HFMA), claim the levels remain likely to be set in a disproportionately restrictive way and will have a devastating impact on the UK health food industry.

They 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.

PM's position 'farcical'

But, according to Dr Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director of ANH, Gordon Brown is out of touch on the issue of MPLs due to a response posted on the website of the PM’s office yesterday in reaction to an e-petition from UK health stores seeking action on the dosage levels.

He said that the response to the petition ‘makes no sense whatsoever and does not begin to answer any of the concerns posed.’

Verkerk described as farcical the decision by the PM’s Office to use the same stock answer to two different e-petitions, one dealing with the influence of international guidelines and standards produced through Codex Alimentarius on the potential availability of therapeutic natural health products, the other dealing with setting of MPLs on vitamin and mineral food supplements.

And speaking to, he said that this kind of misplaced gesture by the PM’s Office is indicative of the UK government’s lack of commitment to stand up to the Commission which is “in turn very susceptible to the influence of other member states, such as Germany, which have long wanted a highly restrictive EU supplement regime that in no way interferes with the pharmaceutical industry.”

Hot topic

Verkerk stressed that debate on the topic is required before the Commission releases its proposals on the MPLs early next year: “we need to make sure they don’t plan to rush these into law without adequate consultation.”

“Member State governments, MEPs, industry and consumers now need to come together to make sure that the Commission appreciates that meaningful discussions should begin—rather than end—once it publishes their proposals for MPLs,”​ he continued.

Scientific methods

Verkerk maintains that well informed MEPs are aware of major scientific problems linked to the methods which are being used to generate MPLs.

He said that the ANH’s petition to the EU Parliament Petitions Committee, submitted back in May and deemed admissible, questioned the scientific methods used to establish the MPLs and the advocates claim they are still awaiting a response on this matter.

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