Botanical groups gather in Brussels to challenge EU herb laws

By Shane Starling

- Last updated on GMT

Related tags: Herbal products, European union

The European Benefyt Foundation and the Alliance for Natural Health International (ANH-Intl) are set to mount a legal challenge in the European Court of Justice against EU herb laws, after meeting in Brussels this week.

The groups believe the 2004 Traditional Herbal Medicinal Products Directive (THMPD) is damaging the botanicals sector, particularly Chinese and Indian herbal products that do not possess the kind of scientific backing the legislation requires for authorisation.

At the Brussels meeting they tabled a position paper committing to three measures:

  • the initiation of judicial review proceedings with the aim of gaining a reference to the European Court of Justice (ECJ)
  • improvement of the food supplements regime governing Chinese and Indian herbal products
  • the development of a new herbal product legal framework

The paper can be found here.

The groups have received a legal opinion on challenging the Directive from UK legal firm, 11KBW, and plan to seek an ECJ judicial review via a yet-to-be-selected EU member state. They cite a lack of proportionality and transparency as the main grounds for a potential challenge.

It is also expected the Indian, Chinese and other governments will make a formal complaint about the regulation to the World Trade Organization.

Herb law issues

ANH scientific and executive director, Dr Rob Verkerk, said the treatment of herbal products under the THMPD and 2006 nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR) was unacceptable.

“While the herbal directive provides an additional framework that is amenable to some, predominantly European herbal products, it simply doesn’t work for the majority of complex, multi-herb products associated with these ancient non-European traditions,” ​he said.

“We have seen a big increase in classifications by national medicine regulators of herbs as novel foods or unlicensed medicines, and it is clear that regulators intend to narrow the scope of the food supplement regime for herbal products after April next year [when products must comply with THMPD].”

Dr Verkerk said the swathe of negative herbal health claim opinions coming through from the European Food Safety Authority was set to remove hundreds of products from EU store shelves.

“The herbal directive, which should provide a carve out for these products, acts disproportionately against non-European traditions, while also discriminating against those who want to use such products – that have after all stood the test of time – to manage their own health. It is therefore essential that judicial review proceedings are started in advance of the end of the transition period [before April next year].”

The European Benefyt Foundation’s Chris Dhaenens added:

“Amongst our proposals, are revised quality control measures that are both cheaper and more effective than those offered by the existing directive. We are very happy to be collaborating closely with the ANH and are hopeful that a strong, more united effort will bring positive change.”

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1 comment

herbal laws

Posted by Dee Burke,

Although I am against wholesale restrictions on herbal supplements, it is about time somebody did a definitive assesment of herbal supplements. I use a lot of these supplements and have been disappointed on a number of occasions. The only way to beat the THMPD is to prove that the supplements work. If they do not work then they have no place in the market. There is too much of the 'could\may do such and such' I want to see 'WILL do such and such' after all, herbal suplements are not cheap.

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