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EU ban angers health food makers

By Angela Saini

Wednesday, July 13, 2005;

LONDON, England -- The British Health Food Manufacturers' Association (HFMA), a body representing 140 firms worldwide, has expressed anger at the European Union's decision to ban high-dose health supplements.

HFMA director David Adams has called upon British Prime Minister Tony Blair to push for a change in the legislation. The UK government has previously expressed concern over the directive.

He told CNN: "We are very disappointed with the decision."

The European Food Supplements Directive, due to come into effect on 1 August 2005, could pull more than 200 vitamins and minerals off the shelves, including vitamin C, manganese and sulphur. The controversial decision on the ban was made on Tuesday, despite pressure from health food manufacturers.

The HFMA say that with up to 5000 products affected, the move could lead to revenue losses of up to 60 per cent for some health food manufacturers and retailers.

UK companies in particular are likely to suffer most from the legislation, because supplements sold in Britain tend to be higher-strength than those sold in the rest of Europe.

The ban came as a surprise to the health food industry because it followed a ruling by EU Advocate General Leendert Geelhoed on 5 April that the Food Supplements Directive was illegal.

The UK-based group Alliance for Natural Health and the specialist supplement manufacturer Nutri-Link Ltd brought the case before the European Court of Justice in Luxembourg earlier this year.

The challenge was also supported by a number of high-profile celebrities, including the actress Dame Judi Dench and the American filmmaker Kevin Miller, who claims that reducing vitamin dosages limits their therapeutic effect.

Any manufacturer wishing to submit a supplement for approval by the EU must produce a detailed dossier outlining its safety and toxicity. The UK Food Standards Agency received dossiers on more than 500 ingredients by the time the EU ban was announced yesterday.

Robert Verkerk, director of the Alliance for Natural Health, who brought the original challenge, said that one of the positive results of Tuesday's EU decision was a plan to simplify the dossier system, making it easier for manufacturers to meet the stringent requirements.

The directive comes at a time when consumer faith in certain supplements has been declining.

Sales of single vitamins in the UK fell by 14 per cent in 2004 following fears over high doses of vitamin A. Popular favorites St. John's Wort and Ginseng, have also suffered falling sales in the past year.

Many manufacturers have been holding out from launching any new products in the past year, for fear that they could be recalled in August.

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