Special edition: Inside Europe's food supplement markets

European food supplement markets: 2 chairs share their industry wares

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

European food supplement markets: 2 chairs share their industry wares

Related tags: Food supplements, European union, Food supplements europe

The trade group Food Supplements Europe (FSE) and UK pro-supplements lobby group Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) take differing views on Europe’s food supplements markets and what is best for them and consumers. We present them here…

Ingrid Atteryd, chair, Food Supplements Europe:

“For a number of years the food supplement sector has missed an organisation that reflects the strength of the sector and the important role supplements play in health and nutrition policy. FSE was created to achieve just this and work with government officials and their scientific advisers across Europe to shape policy and regulation that will allow the sector to grow long-term and consumers to benefit from a wide range of products whether vitamins and minerals, botanicals, higher levels or lower levels. 

As chair of FSE, I am very pleased to see the huge steps forward we have made over the past year:

-          FSE has been launched to all major decision makers in Europe and has become the key point of contact for many.

-          We have issued several guidance documents, including a new pan-European Guide to Good Manufacturing Practice.  Quality has long been a concern of many officials and this Guide delivers a strong and powerful message and also provides a vital tool for companies and decision-makers.

-          We have made very clear our commitment to safety and work with regulators to ensure that policy decisions are evidence-based and support innovation while building the harmonised European market for food supplements.

-          We have engaged with European authorities to shape a wide range of technical requirements for supplements.  Without this work, many products on the market simply would not be able to be sold.

FSE2

By bringing together national associations composed of small and medium companies and major suppliers and marketing companies we have the best of all worlds and can access a unique combination of innovation, dynamism and expertise. 

We have only been formed for one year and our ambitions are high.  However, we have embarked on an essential process, which will safeguard the European food supplement sector long-term.”

 

Michael Peet, chair, Consumers for Health Choice (CHC):

“Millions of people across the European Union use food supplements, for almost as many different reasons. From folic acid for pregnant women, to older people taking vitamin D, right through to sportsmen and women boosting their performance or recovery with sports supplements, vast number of men and women rely on their ability to access safe food supplements.

But if certain lawmakers and lobby groups have their way, these men and women will walk into their health food shop one day and discover that this diverse range of supplements has been all but eliminated. In the place of this myriad of different products for people with different needs will be a small amount of low-dose supplements pumped out by huge multinational supplement companies.

This threat to consumer choice in these supplements, many of which have been around for decades, is hardly new. The Food Supplements Directive was passed in 2002 and mandated that maximum permitted levels should be set in vitamin and mineral supplements, with a view to then going on to set them in other supplements. All indications from the European Commission, who were (and still are) responsible for bringing forward proposals to set these maximum permitted levels, were that levels would be set a low level.

A compromise, the Commission called it, between the levels in supplements available in countries such as Italy, Spain and Germany, and the traditionally much higher-dose supplements that people in countries such as the UK, Ireland and Holland have been able to buy. No matter that it is highly questionable whether someone in, for example, Glasgow has the same nutritional needs as a similar individual in Athens, this was 2002 – the high tide of the European project, where a single European market mattered more than what European citizens wanted or needed.

CHC-SOS13

That should have been that, with those parliamentarians keen on harmonisation across Europe in all matters victorious. Except it has never quite happened as anticipated. A determined rear-guard campaign has been led by CHC, the group that I am proud to chair. CHC is a consumer led organisation and only got going when the scale of the threat to people’s choice in vitamin and mineral supplements – the first targets of the Food Supplements Directive – became horribly apparent.

Many consumers remain utterly baffled as to why European policy-makers would want to ban these higher dose supplements. Both perfectly safe and popular, such supplements seem an innocuous target, particularly given the shakiness of other parts of Europe’s food safety system (as seen during the recent horsemeat farrago).

This confusion manifests itself in a determination amongst ordinary men and women to fight for their right to carry on buying products they have long used, with no problem and with considerable benefits. CHC has been active in Brussels for over a decade now, highlighting to the Commission the strength of consumer feeling on this issue – and why it may be better for all concerned if the setting of maximum permitted levels was shelved for now.

As we have been for many years, CHC will be leading the fight to make sure that the consumer’s voice is heard and that your choice in supplements is preserved.

We don’t have access to the near bottomless pit of money that the major supplement companies are throwing at this but we do have the people, the arguments and the determination on our side.”

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