Maximum VMS lobbying battle brews in European parliaments

By Shane STARLING contact

- Last updated on GMT

Will MPLs for vitamins and minerals in food supplements be harmonised across the EU28?
Will MPLs for vitamins and minerals in food supplements be harmonised across the EU28?

Related tags: Food supplements directive, European union

The supplement and pharmaceutical sectors are ramping up lobbying efforts of new and old Members of the European Parliament (MEPs) – and beyond – to act on the decades-long EU impasse over maximum permitted levels (MPLs) of nutrients in food supplements across the bloc.

The debate hinges on ideas of health optimisation versus nutrient sufficiency to ward off disease with high-dose liberal markets like the UK, Sweden and the Netherlands campaigning against MPL harmonisation at EU level that would likely reduce maxim levels.

In the UK, for example, it is feared the vitamin C maximum could drop from 1000 mg per pill to below 100 mg as exists in countries like Spain and France and many eastern European nations.

Groups there such as Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) have campaigned hard against any change, enlisting support from celebrities like Sir Paul McCartney, Bianca Jagger and football manager David Moyes, and lobbying both MEPs and local MPs.

It upped its activity at the end of 2014 when, with leading retailer Holland & Barrett, it co-hosted an event at Westminster in November to convey its position to local MPs that EU MPLs were not only unnecessary, but destructive to a local market that employed more than 7000 people.

It also organised trips to Brussels to lobby newly voted-in MEPs as well as those already holding seats across all major parties. A 'Save Our Supplements' petition​ has raised almost 300,000 signatures.

davidmoyes
David Moyes: Backer of high-dose supplements

Of the visits to the European capital, director of strategy, Chris Whitehouse noted: “The response has been extremely positive – none of the MEPs that we met could see the need for harmonised MPLs in vitamin and minerals, given that this would effectively ban perfectly safe, higher-potency supplements in a number of EU member States.”

“But we did find out that international companies that want harmonised levels at all costs are lobbying hard for that outcome behind the scenes… Our opponents are busy, one supportive MEP told us when we met her that her very next meeting was with the lobbyists for the other side.”

Building relationships

Whitehouse said just as sought bilateral support in the European Parliament, so it did in Westminster.

CHC worked well with the Labour Government that was in power until 2010 and have had a good relationship with the current Coalition Government, so we are confident that we will be able to work with a Government of any political make up formed after May 7,”​ Whitehouse said.

The offending regulatory text for CHC is article 5 of the 2002 Food Supplements Directive (FSD)​ that stipulates MPLs for vitamins and minerals should be established across the 28-state EU bloc. But 12 years on, scientific and regulatory consensus has not been achieved to establish them. CHC supports the regulatory stalemate, or something more severe.

Chris-Whitehouse1
Chris Whitehouse

Whitehouse: “Although proposals to set MPLs remain on-hold, and have done for a number of years, CHC cannot say it has reached its goal until the relevant Article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive is repealed.”

“We are confident that we have a well-briefed and well-motivated group of supporters across Europe, both consumers of supplements and decision-makers in Westminster, Whitehall and Brussels, that we can call on should a proposal to set maximum permitted levels be bought forward.”

He said there had been encouraging signals emanating from the office of new Commissioner for Health and Food Safety, Vytenis Andriukaitis.

“CHC have been in touch with the new Commissioner to set out our position but it is still very early into his tenure to know his position on many natural health issues. We are aware, however, that there is a belief within the new Commission that perhaps the EU need not regulate as much as it has done in the past.”

Whitehouse said CHC would continue to campaign against the harsh implementation of the EU nutrition and health claims regulation (NHCR).

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