Brexit benefit? UK consumer group says supplement campaign is ‘paused’ as EU interference is no longer a risk

By Nathan Gray

- Last updated on GMT

UK-based Consumers for Health Choice (CHC) says its 20-year long ‘Save Our Supplements’ campaign has been paused because Brexit means a lower risk to the British consumer market.

The campaign against the setting of ‘unnecessary’ restrictions on maximum levels in vitamin and mineral supplements begun in 1997 – and for more than two decades has looked to ensure that UK consumers have

CHC said the campaign to protect UK market interests in the fact of Commission pressure to implement EU-wide legislation on maximum permitted levels is now on pause, given the Brexit will remove the threat.

“For over 20 years we have successfully campaigned to maintain consumer access to safe higher-potency vitamins and mineral supplements,” said Michael Peet, chair of CHC. “With Brexit, the threat of potential EU legislation removing such products from the market has greatly diminished.”

“We have therefore decided to pause our campaign and will return if/when a threat to the choice of consumers of natural health products arises in future. We would like to take this opportunity to thank everyone for their ongoing support of our work over the years.”

Speaking with NutraIngredients, Chris Whitehouse of CHC noted that CHC mounted a ‘huge’ campaign over a 20 year period to stop various ‘threats’ to the UK supplement space, adding that the ‘Save our Supplements’ campaign first began in 1997-98 when the new UK Labour government at the time attempted to put regulations in place that could have banned high-potency vitamin B6.

“The European Commission then brought forward proposals to regulate food supplements across Europe, and proposed in article 5 of that directive that the maximum levels would be set pretty much pretty much for all vitamins and minerals across Europe,”​ Whitehouse said. “Those would have been low maximum permitted levels that would have removed many safe and popular products from the UK market.”

“So we campaigned against that, and for the last 15 years we have prevented the European Union from implementing article 5 of that directive.”

He added that the CHC campaign has also been influential with regard to the traditional medicinal herbal products directive – where it helped to secure amendments which allowed a wider range of traditional herbal remedies to accessible on the UK market.

“British consumers, retailers, and manufacturers, have got a great deal to thank the CHC campaign over the years,”​ he said. “We hope that its legacy will continue to be a liberal UK market after Brexit.”

Looking to the future

Whitehouse noted that while there is growing political pressure within the European Union to enact article 5 of the Food Supplements Directive, he believes there is very little threat to the UK market.

“The UK market is the biggest liberal market in Europe, and we don't think British politicians would be daft enough to over-regulate it after Brexit,”​ he said. “However, and this is a big issue for a large number of companies across Europe, there is now a much greater chance that the European Commission in the very near future will introduce maximum permitted levels for the remaining 27 states.”

“We would anticipate those levels being much lower than the UKs - but possibly higher than those in some member states. So harmonisation across the other 27 member states will likely see some products lost in some countries but also in other countries consumers having access to a wider range,” ​Whitehouse told us.

“Our initial focus was to protect the United Kingdom market, and that's where most of our donations and support has come from. Because we don't realistically now think there is a real and imminent threat to the UK market, it's wrong for us to continue to collect all those standing orders and donations from people who have signed up to protect the UK market,”​ he concluded.

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