New UK battle to save high dose supplements

By Jane Byrne

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags Food supplements directive European union

Time is of the essence to ensure vitamins and minerals in food supplements across the EU bloc are set at levels that will not decimate national industries and restrict consumer choice, claims a UK supplements lobby group as it kick starts a fresh campaign.

Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) has long fought for high-dose supplements which it fears will be stripped from shelves if the EU puts in place restrictive maximum permitted limits (MPLs) for nutrients in food supplements under the Food Supplements Directive.

Proposals for MPLs under Article 5 of the Directive are expected to be published by the Commission in the coming weeks.

CHC director Sue Croft said it is urging consumers, through its new drive - the distribution of one million postcards to health stores and clubs throughout the UK, to press their MPs to speak directly to UK minister of state for public health, Gillian Merron, on the issue.

And she maintains that the CHC e-petition for the retention of the high potency levels receives 1,000 new signatures every month.

According to Croft, consumers are now looking to EC Health Commissioner designate John Dalli to take a lead on this matter by abandoning plans for a disproportionately restrictive interpretation of the legislation, and in doing so, support consumer choice and the small and medium sized businesses in the sector.

She said 700 health food retailers, more than half of those currently operating, could go out of business if nutrient levels were set too low, not to mention the vast restriction of consumer choice for products deemed safe by the UK Food Safety Agency (FSA).

The CHC favours 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.

Dr Robert Verkerk, executive and scientific director of UK advocates, Alliance for Natural Health (ANH), told this publication previously that the Commission is 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.

And he stresses that adequate consultation on MPLs is required before the Commission enacts legislation on the settings:

“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 its proposals for MPLs,”​ said Verkerk.

Croft told that there is cross party support in the UK for high potency supplements to be kept on retail shelves and she believes there may be scope for member states to opt out of the harmonisation rules on the maximum dose settings, allowing national rules to take precedence.

She added that the high potency supplement issue could be a central topic in the upcoming UK general election and that the CHC will ardently push for an exemption for the UK if the MPLs prove too restrictive.

However, regulatory affairs director at the European Federation of Associations of Health Product Manufacturers (EHPM), Lorène Courrège, said she does not envisage a situation where any one country could opt out being possible, stressing that the primary objective of the new Directive is for total harmonisation across the bloc.

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